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Hunter College School of Social Work Moves to East Harlem

By Amy Zimmer | May 19, 2011 10:36am | Updated on May 20, 2011 7:25am
An image of the Lois V. and Samuel J. Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College on East 119th from February.
An image of the Lois V. and Samuel J. Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College on East 119th from February.
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courtesy of Hunter College

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

UPPER EAST SIDE — The staff and faculty at the Hunter College School of Social Work are packing up their Upper East Side offices and classrooms to prepare for the school's move to a $135 million state-of-the art facility in East Harlem.

The school's former building at 129 E. 79th St. will be replaced with a 210-foot-tall luxury residential tower.

The process of moving the entire school 40 blocks north to East 119th Street and Third Avenue will kick off on June 3 and is expected to last until June 17, Doug Jones, executive director of Hunter College's external affairs, told Upper East Side residents at a Community Board 8 meeting Wednesday night. Six trucks will shuttle equipment, paperwork, and materials between the two neighborhoods from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., he said.

The new building for Hunter's Social Work school — which was established in 1958 and had been on 79th Street since 1969 — received $40 million from the New York Community Trust, the largest single gift ever made to CUNY. Another $80 million for construction of the eco-friendly facility with an art gallery, community spaces and an inner courtyard came from the state legislature.

"It's a chance to live our mission," Jacqueline Mondros, dean of the social work school, said in a statement. "Social work is all about enhancing communities and the people in them. To have a community in which to work, that needs us and wants us, and which we need and want — it's a synergistic moment."

Classes will begin at the Lois V. and Samuel J. Silberman School of Social Work, as it will be called, in late August, but the new building will have its official ribbon cutting in late September, Jones said. The building will also house Hunter College's Institute for the Study of Puerto Ricans and faculty from the new CUNY School of Public Health.

"I know that it's going to be a success," State Senator Jose Serrano, who represents part of both neighborhoods, said at the meeting. "We're happy this will foster more interaction between the two communities, which is very important."

In a complicated real estate deal, the Silbermans, who leased the 79th Street building to Hunter, sold the building to the Brodsky Organization for a reported $65 million. From that sale, they worked with the Trust on donating $40 million for the new building, which the Brodsky Organization built.

The building on 79th Street and Lexington Avenue will be torn down and replaced with a 19-story high-rise with fewer than 35 apartments, Mark Green, from the Brodsky Organization, told residents.

Community Board 8 has often held meetings in the social work school's auditorium. The college has located new space on its main campus at 68th Street and Lexington Avenue for community meetings, Jones told residents.

Abatement and demolition of the existing building on East 79th Street will begin in July and take an estimated six months, Green told residents. It will take roughly two years to construct the new building, which will require no changes in zoning, Green said.

"The building will have masonry. It will be very contextual," Green told DNAinfo. The large apartments will be sized for families, modeled on the large layouts of upscale pre-War buildings, he noted.