“Schoolwork” While Students are Remote: A New and Improved York Campus is on the Horizon

Photo Credit |Office of Facilities and Planning

By Asar John

When the COVID-19 pandemic ushered many York faculty, staff and students to their homes for mostly remote operations, construction projects both ongoing and new, continued to progress on campus.

Almost a year ago, the York College campus was undergoing the removal and replacement of a stairway, six escalators and a few elevators in the Academic Core Building. According to a report released in January from the Office of Facilities and Planning at York College, the replacement work on those structures is at 90 percent completion. According to the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, (DASNY), the replacements come with a cost of $14.7 million. 

Several other upgrades across the campus are in progress or in the planning stages. Some of these include the renovation of lecture halls, chemistry, biology and animal labs, the data center, Greenhouse and Faculty Dining Room. Others include less arduous tasks, such as refreshing the overall look to the campus by giving paint jobs where needed. 

“There are two projects– the Improvement Project is what I would call a beautification project, which is separate from for the Capital Construction Project,” said Executive Director of Facilities and Planning Onyekachi Akoma, who assumed the position in October. 

Akoma says that upon the release of the Facilities Update in January, the renovation of the lecture halls, labs and Faculty Dining Room, (which are part of capital construction), was 10 percent complete. As of now, there is no exact completion date, but Akoma believes work on these areas will finish up within 2021. 

“We have had some challenges because of COVID and a variety of other things so our schedule had been thrown off a bit,” said Akoma, adding that a more definitive timeline may be provided in March or April.

A chemistry and biology lab room featuring before (top photo) and after construction (bottom photo). The construction progress of this project as of February 2021 is at 10%. Photo Credit| Office of Facilities and Planning

The construction project will also include roof and facade work to the Milton G. Bassin Performing Arts Center. The center closed in September 2019 after mold was discovered in the building by a staff member. Alongside the exterior work of the building, interior work is planned as well but has not entered the bidding process as of yet. 

Another component of the Capital Construction Project will involve the replacement of the temperature control systems on campus, by installing the new Building Management System, an automated way to virtually control the temperature levels in the building. According to Akoma, the need for this upgrade was sparked by frequent complaints of areas in the building being too hot or too cold. As of the January update, this project is at 70 percent completion and according to DASNY, comes with a price tag of about $14.8 million.  

Other smaller projects included in the realm of capital construction that are planned but have not commenced include the restoration of entrance doors in the main building. Akoma says a successful bidder is still being identified to award the contract for construction. 

“After we award that contractor, there is a process of vetting and a contract negotiation,” says Akoma, noting that once a contract is negotiated, work can begin on the door restoration project. 

An anticipated date was not given for the award. 

As for the campus improvement project, which Akoma sometimes refers to as “Project Low Hanging Fruit” for the parts of the project being done that are more attainable. Work planned for the improvement projects includes “upgrade finishes”, (paint jobs and exterior brickwork), improved wayfinding that coincides with an upgraded clock system and landscape fixes. 

As for now, cost proposals for the improvement project are still pending. However, this did not stop Akoma from detailing the plan to improve the look and feel of the York campus. Some of the envisioned changes include upgrading York’s antiquated clock system to one that does more than just tell the time of day. 

“Time is everywhere,” said Akoma, noting that people can access time from their watches, phones, etc. “For me, the notion of a traditional clock that you just look up at is kind of a dinosaur. What if you had interactive screens that helped you find your classroom and helped you find information in a wall somewhere– and guess what– it shows the time. Would you need a clock as well?” 

Akoma says these interactive displays would serve as a purpose to not only help people navigate the campus but also for the promotion of York events and news. Other wayfinding ideas include the color-coding of corridors on campus. 

“Let’s take for example you have the A-wing, but the A-wing is color-coded with the color blue,” said Akoma. “You walk into the building and you see this live graphic that tells you, if you’re going to this destination, look for indications of the color blue as a marker to direct you there, versus yellow, versus purple.”

Akoma went to address the landscaping plan, which includes planting vegetation and improving accessibility and lighting around campus. 

“There will be a master plan to address the entire campus and the look of landscaping,” said Akoma. “We hope we can achieve it throughout the campus, but as for actual execution, we would have to break it down into phases. I don’t believe we will be able to get the money to execute everything all at once.”

One of the lecture hall rooms in construction. As of February 2021, these rooms are at 10% completion progress. Photo Credit| Office of Facilities and Planning

According to Akoma, the first phase of the landscaping plan is planned to be the courtyard of the AC building’s front entrance. Design renderings of the plan will be provided once the services of a landscaper are secured.

Akoma said the overall objective of the improvement and construction projects is to “celebrate York,” as a place where people want to be. 

“We want to jazz it up a bit and make students want to come here and feel proud to bring their friends and family here and say “Ah, look at my school.”

More info concerning the projects can be found through the most recent public update from the Office of Facilities and Planning.

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