Long-awaited Stevens garage opens

436 spots for students/staff; Hoboken gets 50 elsewhere

A completed 436-car garage at the Stevens Institute of Technology opened to faculty, students, and staff in January, confirmed a school official last week. The second phase of the garage construction will wrap a new academic building around the facility, but hasn’t started.
Because the new garage will take cars away from other lots, 50 spots for Hoboken residents will soon become available in Griffith Parking Lot, on Sinatra Drive across from the new garage. An official said the spaces are already striped and are waiting for signage. Anyone with a residential parking sticker will be able to park there.
The Babbio Garage was phase I of a two-part capital improvement plan funded through a $12 million bond. The building in the second phase will block the garage from the view of visitors to Hoboken’s waterfront.

Parking spaces

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The university began building the garage in early 2000s but had to stop when activists pointed out that they didn’t have all of the proper approvals. The school obtained approvals in 2009 to continue construction, but needed more.
In 2016 the school applied to the Zoning Board to accelerate the two-phase project in order to try and finish the garage by the end of 2017.
Vice President of Facilities and Campus Operations Robert Maffia said the completed garage helps not only with the growing student population, but with the aesthetic of the area. Because the garage expanded on an older parking structure, he said, “It has added 266 spaces to lower campus, where majority of academic programs are.”
Stevens Institute of Technology, founded in 1868, has almost 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students and roughly 900 faculty and staff members.

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“Our needs change rapidly and as of now there is no firm definition for the building.” –Robert Maffia

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Plaza

The garage will also have a rooftop plaza which is currently under construction. They are “just putting on the finishing touches,” according to Maffia.
The plaza will be open to everyone and it may eventually contain a seasonal ice-skating rink, run by the city.
Workers also built a new staircase north of the garage, to replace the dilapidated and oddly spaced wooden stairs down the hill.

Phase II

The wrap-around academic building was originally envisioned as the Center for Engineering and Science Innovation, but Maffia said he is not sure that will still be its use and name, as the school’s needs change frequently.
Stevens will also, during the second phase, reconfigure Fifth Street, which currently snakes down a hill to Sinatra Drive, to add a new lane for cars to head north into the Babbio garage on Fifth Street.

Gianforte Center under construction

Also underway for the school is a new two-building academic center at Sixth and Hudson streets, whose visitors can take advantage of the Babbio Garage.
The Gianforte Family Academic Center is scheduled to open in 2019. The 89,950-square-foot facility will include classrooms, labs, and offices.
It was funded through a $20 million donation by Montana Rep. and Stevens alum Greg Gianforte.
Some residents and students criticized the name because of Gianforte’s long history of controversial conservative views and actions – not to mention the fact that he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault last June for striking a reporter. The reporter was interviewing him during his election campaign. After public pressure mounted, Gianforte apologized and said in a letter, “My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful.”
Stevens decided to rename the building in September. In a statement at the time, University President Nariman Farvardin said, “As a charitable organization, Stevens would never endorse or promote any political, religious, or other position by a donor or otherwise. Stevens’ only obligation in accepting this gift is to build the academic center.”

Marilyn Baer can be reached at marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.

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