Open for business: Tenants move into long-vacant MTA building on Jay Street amid $500-million makeover

Open for business: Tenants move into long-vacant MTA building on Jay Street amid $500-million makeover
New York University

It’s a brand new day on Jay!

The long-empty former Metropolitan Transportation Authority building on Jay Street in Downtown welcomed its first new tenant in a decade when New York University staffers moved into the abandoned site earlier this month, bringing fresh life to the dilapidated structure that one former borough president once declared “a magnet for trash,” according to the pol.

“It was an eyesore in an exciting area of Downtown, it was mostly vacant, and frankly I’m thrilled,” said Marty Markowitz. “I think it’ll be such a positive contribution to the vitality of the neighborhood.”

The state transit agency’s one-time headquarters, dubbed the Transportation Building, sat nearly vacant for more than 10 years after employees decamped for two new spaces inside a Livingston Street building a few blocks away and a tower on the distant isle of Manhattan.

But in mid-December, amid the university’s ongoing $500-million makeover of the site, staffers from its Tandon School of Engineering’s Center for Urban Science and Progress moved into the top two floors of the building at 370 Jay Street after workers gutted its insides, replaced its roof and windows, and at long last tore down some of the long-standing scaffolding that has been a neighborhood eyesore for years.

Eyesore: The site circa 2008, when pols including former Borough President Markowitz demanded the Metropolitan Transportation Authority vacate the space.

Engineering-school students will begin taking classes in the new space in January while contractors put the finishing touches on the 11 remaining floors, which will include audio labs, virtual-reality rooms, performance and workshop spaces, and classrooms that will also be filled by thespians from the university’s Tisch School of the Arts and pupils enrolled in its culture-and-technology program, Media and Games Network.

School officials expect the entire building to be occupied by 2019.

Markowitz, other local leaders, and residents railed against the transportation authority for neglecting its former headquarters between Willoughby Street and MetroTech as the neighborhood around underwent a development boom in 2008, demanding the cash-strapped agency vacate the ghost of a building so it could be transformed into a space that could actually boost the local economy.

Three years later, the transit agency’s honchos agreed to leave the city-owned building, and in 2012, the private university signed a 99-year lease for the site.

As part of the school’s renovation of the property, workers are also sprucing up two entrances to the nearby Jay Street-MetroTech subway station, a hub that the city last refreshed in 2010.

Swanky: Students start classes in the renovated space in January.
New York University

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.