He and the building's architect, Roger Duffy, had both emphasized the school's relationship to the neighborhood, as well as their desire for the building to honor the history of its surroundings.
The 18-story building at Fifth Avenue and 14th Street is part of a "continuing recommitment to the school's engagement with the neighborhood and the city," Van Zandt said.
Parker spoke reverently of the school as a nearly century-old "beacon for free expression and intellectual courage" that had often served as a safe haven for artists and writers in exile and under persecution.
"The New School has welcomed and trained generations of artists and thinkers who have shaped our culture," she said, naming Harry Belafonte, Elaine Stritch, Jack Kerouac and Donna Karan as some examples of prolific New School alumni.
The new building houses facilities not only for students, but also for the general public, including the new Tishman auditorium, and promises "educational and cultural programming that will engage the community," Parker said.
The University Center was heavily damaged in a water main break last week but still managed to open on schedule Thursday. Sustainability features in the new building include an in-house water filtration system and air quality sensors.