As residential students returned from winter break, they saw that a recent wave of renovation projects had broken ground in front of HofUSA plaza. The work is part of a larger North Campus Beautification Project and, according to Vice President of Facilities and Operations Joseph Barkwill, the intention is to promote a more outdoor-friendly residential side to Hofstra’s arboretum.
“Really, going back 60 years ago, [North campus] was an airport, flat concrete, and we use those for parking lots. It doesn’t have that warm campus feeling like South campus…and we want to create the atmosphere to enjoy being outside,” Barkwill said.
The project has followed closely on the heels of renovations inside HofUSA, according to Barkwill. The added appeal of relatively low interest rates under the current economy helped to motivate updates to the plaza, too.
After the University ordered a bond to pay for its project, the Facilities and Operations Department waited until unseasonably warm weather during the intersession and then began to break concrete with its loudest machinery before students began streaming back from winter break.
Campus was not entirely empty during this first stage of the project, however.
Michael Heroux is an RA that stayed on campus during the intersession. The sophomore was not informed of the planned work until he was rudely awoken the morning it started.
“I just feel bad for the people who didn't have to get up early and had to listen to all the noise. Apart from the noise, I just hope they do something interesting to the area they're developing because it was just open space before,” said Heroux.
That open space was once designed to be a recreational skating rink. Fred Soviero, director of grounds and landscaping, observed that in his twenty-six years at Hofstra, he had never seen the skating rink in use the way it was meant to be used.
“In New York, it’s tough to get [the skating rink] cold enough to keep water and freeze it in—it just doesn’t make sense and wasn’t really well used,” said Soviero.
Many students who have used the concrete rink for roller hockey or skateboarding, however, may miss the peculiar feature. Sophomore Steven Maddi has been an avid skater for eight years, and he does not necessarily see a lack of beauty that needs to be filled with soil.
“It’s already a really nice campus but the construction would not benefit me—but I’ll find a way,” said Maddi.
In place of the skating rink, landscaping and grounds crews are laying down a lawn on the southern side of the plaza. The lawn is intended to encourage students to play Frisbee or sunbathe at their leisure, Soviero said. On the north side of the plaza, a private bench area will be nestled in perennials and shrubs.
Currently, crews are also working to complete an island of trees and shrubs that will serve to discourage drivers looking to cut through the Enterprise parking lot to speed past road bumps and stop signs.
“It’s a little dangerous. We’re trying to make it look better and cut down on [drivers] racing through the parking lot,” said Soviero.
According to Barkwill and Soviero, Hofstra’s own masons, plumbers and painters will do the majority of the project, keeping it in-house. The Facilities and Operations Department has much of the staff necessary to keep costs down and management close, although Soviero expects to see irrigation work in front of HofUSA go to the lowest bidder of choice vendors.
In addition to the work in front of HofUSA, the beautification project will also include work in two other areas.
At the three bears statue, the main North campus entrance road will be reconfigured from the current five-way intersection into a four-way intersection, with work scheduled to begin after commencement. And at the East Gate entrance across from Nassau Coliseum, new gates and columns will be added, as well as ferns, trees and shrubs. The East Gate work will primarily benefit visitors to the Mack Arena and is planned for summer or late spring.
Students may notice other projects under way through the remainder of the year. Most noticeably, identifying signs have been added in front of the residence halls and directional way-finders were placed on the North and South campuses. These signs are the third phase of the Campus Signage Project, which began in 2008 with New York Department of Transportation funding.
Interior and roofing work on Weed and Davison Halls has been wrapping up, and there are currently plans to convert the periodicals section of lower-level Axinn to a new study lounge similar to the Collaborative Learning Center (which replaced the former Government Documents office on the second floor of the library last year). Both the Student Center Multipurpose Room and Hammer Lab are also scheduled for upcoming redesigns. The security turnstile at the Oak Street entrance (facing the Netherlands) is expected to be replaced and an additional building will be added to the School of Medicine by the year’s end.
With so many changes taking place, it’s difficult to do a perfect job. Students have their own opinions of the signs that seemingly sprung up over the break, and complaints have rolled into Barkwill’s office about misdirections on the way-finders and disagreements over their terminology. Barkwill says that the signs are easily re-laminated and noted last week that four way-finders had been identified as needing corrections.
Carl Rohde, a junior, felt that at least at present, any rewards from a beautification project would not be soon apparent.
“Seeing as they've already messed up the signs before putting them in place, I'm not getting my hopes up. I expect that it will be visually beautiful come springtime, but while it's still cold, it will only look like a pile of dirt,” said Rohde.
As for students’ debates over the use of “Bridge” on the way-finders instead of “Unispan,” Barkwill has his thoughts on that, too.
“We all call it the unispan, but if you think about what that means, it means “one span” by the nature of the word. Back when it was built, there was only one [bridge]… Well, we have three now,” said Barkwill.
Yet Barkwill says he is open to comments and questions about choices of terminology in the signs, including the question of whether “Bridge” should be changed to “Unispan.” When asked whether unispan might simply refer to a university-span, Barkwill seemed interested. And so, as work continues on our university, students should not forget the power of constructive criticism. Comments whispered to our friends are one thing, but a well-directed question to an administrator may still have the power to bring wanted change.