N.Y.U. buys Forbes Building; Watchdog barks his ‘concerns’

By Albert Amateau

New York University last week announced it completed the purchase of the Forbes Building, 60 Fifth Ave., at W. 12th St., the eight-story limestone building completed in 1923.

Forbes, however, will continue to occupy the building as its headquarters for five years, according to the university’s Jan. 7 announcement.

The price was not revealed, but N.Y.U. Executive Vice President Michael Alfano hailed the acquisition of “an important property, a fair value and a great location, close enough to our core to allow for a number of possible academic uses.”

Alfano said the agreement was consistent with the community-oriented planning principles the university worked out two years ago with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, “especially the emphasis on acquiring existing structures rather than resorting to new construction.”

But Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, who participated in discussions that resulted in the N.Y.U. planning principles, was critical of the Forbes deal.

“While it is preferable for N.Y.U. to be purchasing buildings in this neighborhood rather than tearing them down, we do have very serious concerns about their continued expansion and takeover of space in the neighborhood,” Berman said last week. “It has long been our position that N.Y.U. should remain within its existing footprint and envelope in this already-saturated area and should seek opportunities for satellite campuses if it believes it must expand in the future,” Berman said.

“While N.Y.U. demolishing ever-larger chunks of our neighborhood for new development is our worst nightmare for the future, their taking over and occupying more and more buildings in this neighborhood and making it essentially a company town is not a good or desirable future either,” Berman said.

Steve Forbes, chairman and C.E.O. of Forbes and editor in chief of Forbes magazine, noted that Forbes and N.Y.U. are both Village institutions “and the stewardship of this landmark building will be in able, caring hands.”

Forbes began looking for buyers for the building in 2007 near the top of the real estate market when the publisher hoped for $1,000 per square foot, or $120 million for the 122,500-square-foot building, according to published reports.

But last month the New York Post reported that Forbes was close to selling for only $55 million. Forbes, however, denied the report. Forbes has been in the building since 1962. It was formerly the home of Macmillan Publishers.