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NYU eyes Brooklyn

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New York University is coming to Brooklyn — and so is its voracious appetite for real estate.

The ever-growing private institution, based in Greenwich Village, is opening its first non- Manhattan residence in a Brooklyn Heights apartment tower, and is negotiating what it described as a “merger” with Downtown Brooklyn-based Polytechnic University.

One hundred and fifteen graduate students will move this month into the “sliver building” at 67 Livingston St., between Clinton and Court streets, which is named for the way its narrow 26-floors are wedged between wider buildings on the street. Since the late 1980s, the tower’s 76 units served as a dormitory for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. In March, a private investor bought it for $18.6 million and then leased it to NYU.

The dormitory news follows a statement by NYU last week that it is negotiating a “merger” with Polytechnic. Details of the marriage remain in negotiation, but it appears the end result will be a new school of engineering for the Manhattan-based NYU and a boost in prestige for Poly, which lacks the national cachet and flush endowment of NYU.

In a carefully written statement on the school’s Web site, Poly President Jerry Hulton envisioned a post-merger institution as “two universities joined.”

“We are confident that an agreement will be … highly beneficial to both Polytechnic and NYU,” he said.

But while the merger would be a push onto a larger, national stage for Brooklyn-born Poly, it appears the school would sacrifice some independence in the deal.

“Poly would be part of the NYU network. The specifics are what we will work out in the coming weeks,” said NYU President John Sexton, a former Brooklynite who was chair of the Religion Department at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights before his move to NYU.

Sexton said that the merger could pave the way for an expansion of other programs in his former stomping grounds.

“[Brooklyn] is a wonderful location to build other programs,” he said in an interview with The Brooklyn Paper. “It remains to be seen how this would be done, but my guess is that we would complement Polytechnic’s programming with continuing education offerings.”

Sexton said NYU hasn’t ruled out opening more dorms in Brooklyn.

“Faculty and students have been moving [to Brooklyn] on their own for years so it wouldn’t be surprising to see more residential developments as well,” he said.

A van will provide late night service between the NYU campus and the across-the-bridge dorm.

Local business owners looked forward to the new kids on the block, but hoped the students would know when to drop the books.

“Young people may be good for bar business,” said Joe Secondino, who runs the Heights Café on Montague Street.

“The neighborhood has become very family-oriented. More students would diversify things.”

One building in the neighborhood, the St. George Hotel on Clark Street, is already occupied by students from Pace University and other non-Brooklyn-based private colleges.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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