WSN Archive
Bobst barriers installed
Full access restored to upper levels
Nils I. Palsson
11/24/03 0:00

After weeks of construction prompted by two student deaths at Bobst Library, full access to the building's elevators has been restored, and plastic panels now encompass all of the building's indoor balconies.

The project, which commenced shortly after a second student leapt to his death on Oct. 10, finished at 6:30 p.m. Friday, library officials said. Now that elevators travel to all floors and the debris net is set to come down, officials are focusing on a new construction project slated to begin this summer.

'They're putting the last Lexan panel in even as we speak,' Dean of Libraries Carol Mandel said in an interview Friday. 'By Monday, we will officially be back to normal.'

Neither Mandel nor university spokesman John Beckman would disclose the cost of the recent construction, but both said they were pleased with the project's results.

'It's far less of a visual negative than we had planned,' Mandel said. 'Everyone will feel safer and more comfortable now that they are in.'

Students, however, expressed ambivalence about the new Lexan walls. Lexan, a high-impact plastic, is more resistant and expensive than Plexiglas.

'The panels are a bit awkward, and they don't seem like a very permanent solution,' said Joe Savona, a College of Arts and Science senior.

Others suggested that political messages might quickly litter the Lexan panes. 'The walls are just going to be cluttered with graffiti,' CAS senior Ryan Scanlan said.

The two student deaths came exactly four weeks apart and were the first in the more than 30 years since the library opened. Fearful of further incidents, the university immediately restricted access to the interior balconies after the second death. The elevators traveled only to the seventh floor, where NYU Public Safety officers and library staff members directed patrons to the back staircases.

'To get where I had to go, I was forced to find my way around the maze of the building,' said Deborah Kerson, a student in the Wagner Graduate School of Public Policy, who visits the building daily.

'I understand the point of re-directing traffic,' Kerson added. 'But I'm also ready for the inconvenience to stop.'

While construction woes may cease temporarily, a new renovation project is set to begin soon.

'The whole building will eventually need to be renovated because it's over 30 years old,' Mandel said.

The new project, which has a current budget of over $14 million, is funded primarily by gifts, including a $10 million donation from Mamdouha 'Dodo' Bobst, the wife of late library benefactor Elmer Holmes Bobst.

'We have funding from generous donors for what we are calling 'phase one' of the renovation,' Mandel said, adding that the project will alter the first and second floors, and the A- and B-levels of the building. Current periodicals will be moved to the second floor, and the B-level will house the BobCat's Den dining area, she said.

Phase-one planning is being undertaken by Alspector Anderson Architects, former partners in the firm that designed the New York Public Library's Science, Industry and Business Library at Madison Avenue and 34th Street, Mandel said. Renovations beyond the initial project involving the first four floors are still in the early planning stages.

The Bobst Renovation Advisory Committee is in charge of library construction, said Jonathan Vafai, Student Senators Council president and a committee member. The board includes faculty, administration and a mix of graduate and undergraduate students, he said.

Vafai added that current concerns over the Lexan panels covering Bobst balconies may be moot because of future construction plans.

'[The committee] will be re-thinking the whole railing thing,' Vafai said. 'But it might be as many as several years before [the panels] come down.'