Scaffolding Erected as Zysman Restoration Project Begins
Last semester, The Quipster, a satirical newspaper and self-acclaimed “content-free news source” run by several students of Yeshiva University, published an article discussing the notorious scaffolding that surrounded the Rubin Residence Hall until winter break. The article, “The Benefits of Living in Rubin Hall,” written under the pseudonym “A Commentating Observer,” concluded in tongue in cheek fashion by citing “rumors…that due to its overall success and positive reviews, YU is seriously considering implementing this project for the Morg dorms next semester.” While the Quipster’s prediction was not perfect, another Yeshiva University building is indeed now sporting the scaffolding look.
Zysman Hall, home to the Harry Fischel Beit Midrash, the Lamport Auditorium, where many major campus events are held, and a passage to the Muss Residence Hall, now hosts the most recent edition of campus construction. The “sidewalk bridge,” the official term for the scaffolding, currently stretches between 186th and 187th Streets along Amsterdam Avenue. According to Robert Salpeter, YU’s Director of Planning, Design, and Construction, the building required the protective measures in order to address two areas of concern: the 2nd floor balcony above the front steps to the building and the northeast corner of the building, both cited during a scheduled inspection by the facilities staff. Built in 1927, the Moorish-style building recently developed visible cracks which must be repaired to prevent further structural damage. Salpeter explained that until skilled engineering consultants hired by the University can attend to those repairs, the sidewalk bridge will remain in place to protect pedestrians.
Moving forward, Mr. Salpeter revealed that the plan is to “design a solution to the cracking and hire contractors to make the repairs.” Additionally, matching materials must be ordered, scaffolding must be erected, and proper permits from the city government must be secured. Although no timeline is available, Mr. Salpeter stressed the importance of taking great care when dealing with such a historic landmark, emphasizing that the restoration project will attempt to duplicate the original design as accurately as possible.
Some students are tired of seeing scaffolding overtake campus buildings. Aaron Miller (YC ’15) maintains that “his eyesight is upset by seeing such a beautiful, historic building stained by industrial scaffolding.” Others have not even noticed the sidewalk bridge. For those that do not have any classes in the Fischel Beit Midrash or live in the Muss dormitory, that block of Amsterdam is rarely traversed. One student divulged that he has not been in Zysman Hall this entire semester. Moshe Zisblatt (YC ’15), Vice President of the YU Sophomore Class, admits, “I do not even notice it when I walk by. While it may be an ugly structure blocking the building, scaffolding at YU has almost become second nature.”
This “second nature” attitude was established after a sidewalk bridge and accompanying scaffolding flanked Rubin Hall for all of last semester. The dormitory, occupied mostly by first-year students, underwent serious renovation of the seven-story building’s facade. Eitan Katlowitz (YC ’15) expressed his displeasure with the construction: “Having workers outside your windows became quite intrusive. We were unable to open our windows for fresh air – the room would simply fill with dust and building debris.” Similar complaints were echoed by Raphi Ozarowski (YC ’15): “My room felt like a prison cell, with metal bars crossing immediately outside my window. Soot and dust would fly into my room if I ever opened the windows. When the scaffolding was finally removed, I felt liberated from the confines of the scaffolding.”
Mr. Salpeter explained the series of steps for the Rubin Hall project that engendered the discomfort. After investigation of the facade’s deterioration called for constructive renovation, sidewalk bridging was installed to protect pedestrians. After a mock-up model of the restoration was undertaken in the Summer of 2011, the administration approved a total re-bricking, which required constant construction, using the scaffolding as a working platform, to complete the task in a timely manner. The project was finally completed in December 2012 and the scaffolding and sidewalk bridging was removed.
Adin Rayman (YC ’15) misses the Rubin sidewalk bridging: “The scaffolding provided an excellent shield from the rain, wind, and snow while on my way to classes.” Still, most say the building is better off without the unattractive metal frames. “With the re-bricking complete and the scaffolding gone,” Ozarowski says, “Rubin Residence Hall gives off an entirely new, sophisticated aura. The building’s upgrade reflects a development in formality and modernity.”
Asked if YU was planning on continuing the systematic process of erecting scaffolding on each of its buildings, Mr. Salpeter clarified YU’s building inspection policy: “Every occupied building in New York City has to have its exterior periodically restored.” He explained that Belfer Hall, the Gottesman Library, and Stern’s 245 Lexington Avenue building have all undergone renovation in the past several years. Inspections, either mandated by law or warranted for safety purposes, will continue to occur, as YU continuously looks to improve its campus.
Although The Quipster’s Commentating Observer may have missed the true motivations, rest assured that the scaffolding will likely rise again.