Manhattan College is marching south. Workers last week were cutting trees to make way for a new student park planned on West 240th Street between Irwin and Tibbett avenues, a school spokesperson confirmed.
The new site is part of the college’s three-phase strategic plan that began more than a decade ago and calls for additional green space by 2025, but it may be facing some hurdles on this block.
The southwest corner of Van Cortlandt Park is zoned for manufacturing and once housed a cluster of autobody shops. They’ve all but disappeared as the college has scooped up lots south of West 240th Street.
Manhattan College’s Mahan Hall occupies the south side of the block. It houses the college’s physical plant and is also home to the Gaelic Park Athletic Center, which includes locker rooms, office space and a training room for Manhattan’s fall and spring Jasper teams competing at Gaelic Park.
In 2006, Manhattan College purchased 3813 Tibbett Ave. and 3820 Irwin Ave. for $625,000. Ten years later they claimed 310 W. 240th St. for $2 million and 3815 Tibbett Ave. for $655,000. Demolition permits for these properties were filed in the following the years.
Most of the block is now vacant or used for parking. Karl’s Autobody on the corner of W. 240th St. and Irwin Ave. is the last holdout.
Manhattan College has made offers, the owner said, but they aren’t interested in leaving.
He said there used to be other auto shops, one in front and another behind Karl’s. “Now we’re the only one,” he said. “That’s all we can say.”
In 2020, Manhattan College launched the third and final phase of its 2011-2025 master plan. “Renewing the Promise” aims to improve academic excellence, community engagement, sustainability, and campus infrastructure, according to an overview of the plan published on the college’s website.
It mentions improvements to existing infrastructure and development of new campus facilities, but doesn’t specify how the new student park fits into the picture.
In the coming weeks and months, the physical plant administration team will meet to discuss options for the future, media director David Koeppel said. The team performs general maintenance for the college and is based in Mahan Hall abutting the new green space.
They’ll discuss changes to fencing around the perimeter of the block, among other topics, Koepell said.
But expanding the campus is a familiar concept, as they have been doing it for the past two decades. The private college was founded in 1853 and relocated from the Manhattan to Riverdale in 1922. As it entered the 21st century, they have built four new buildings on campus to meet the needs of students.
The O’Malley Library opened in 2002, Lee Hall opened in 2008, Raymond W. Kelly Student Commons opened in 2014, and the Higgins Engineering and Science Center opened in 2021.
The college plan’s to use its property on West 240th Street and Irwin Avenue for the park.
John Pantusa, an engineering major, believes a park would give students more breathing room to relax off campus.
“If I had a calm environment, then it’ll probably be a nice study spot in the spring. In all honesty, as an engineering major, I’m usually in class, getting food or studying in the library, so I don’t really have strong emotions towards it,” Pantusa said.