Douglaston to Fordham: A Pox on Tower

One of the more notable—and divisive—features of Fordham University’s plan to expand its Lincoln Center campus has been the Jesuit school’s effort to sell off part of its Upper West Side superblock to make room for two soaring apartment towers, helping to finance the expansion.

But as it has done to so many projects in recent months, it seems the economy is throwing a wrench into the mix. Douglaston Development, the designated developer of one of those towers, is indicating it will pull out of its planned building of over 50 stories. Douglaston signed an agreement to develop the site more than three years ago, but did not close on the property, which Fordham is currently taking through a rezoning. No developer had been engaged for the second site, so Fordham is left without any builders.

Asked last week about the tower, Jeffrey Levine, chairman of Douglaston, said that he was negotiating with Fordham to step down from the deal.

“We have the option, as the result of our agreement, to back out,” Mr. Levine said. “As a result of the delay in the approval process … and in consideration of market conditions, we think that’s the prudent thing to do.”

In a statement, Fordham did not directly address the deal’s effect on the expansion but expressed confidence that a sale would eventually occur. “Given the status of the national and local economy, it is impossible to close any real estate transactions at this time,” a Fordham spokesman, Robert Howe, said. “We expect the deal will be resurrected when the economy improves.”

The Douglaston tower, which was part of a joint venture with Continental Properties, was to be built along West 62nd Street and Columbus Avenue. 

Fordham’s proposal to sell for private development land initially acquired through eminent domain, and intended for academic use, has angered neighbors who oppose the expansion.