In early April 1831, a group of prominent New Yorkers headed by former US Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin established NYU. Unlike many other American colleges at the time, NYU was non-denominational.
Gallatin stated that his objective was to create ‘a system of rational and practical education fitting for all and graciously open to all.’ At that time higher education was generally available only to students from moneyed families, and Gallatin wanted NYU to be ‘a center of higher learning that would be open to all.’
Originally, NYU operated two campuses. The University Heights campus in the Bronx originally housed the undergraduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering. The downtown Washington Square campus served largely as the home of NYU’s School of Law. However, after a financial crisis struck the university in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Bronx campus was sold and the downtown Washington Square facilities were updated to house the entire university.
Centered on Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park, NYU’s campus is unlike most college campuses in the sense that it is essentially a group of buildings scattered throughout a city neighborhood, where students mingle with residents and tourists on the sidewalks and in stores and restaurants. The park, where many students kill time between classes, serves as NYU’s unofficial “quad”; even though the Washington Square Arch is part of this public park, it has become synonymous with NYU. In the 1990s, NYU expanded into Union Square, a ten-minute walk from Washington Square Park.
The Bobst Library, an imposing 12-story building, serves approximately 6,800 users per day. NYU’s Skirball Center is the largest theater in Manhattan south of 42nd St. that has hosted events ranging from a speech by Al Gore to a season finale of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice.”
Manhattan’s Greenwich Village is one of the city’s most historic and vibrant areas. Washington Square Park has been a hub of politics and culture for well over a century, and was a favorite haunt of artists ranging from Mark Twain and William S. Burroughs to Bob Dylan and Rosario Dawson. Long characterized as the center of the Beat movement and a haven for artists and bohemians, due to gentrification and the ever-increasing cost of housing, the village is currently home to more mainstream cultural figures, including celebrities like Liv Tyler, Anna Wintour, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Today, the Village is an ideal setting for those who are new to the city. There is enough cultural diversity to keep one occupied for days on end, and the area lacks some of the rough edges that had previously scared away outsiders. There are countless bars and restaurants to entertain students on the weekends, and if that gets old, the rest of the city is only a subway ride away.
New York City’s subway system runs all day and night, taking NYU students almost anywhere within the city of eight million. Any student will tell you that New York is home to some of the finest entertainment that the world has to offer – food, shopping, concerts, bars, Broadway shows, film, art, sports, you name it – so if you’re bored, you’re not trying.
After the All-University Commencement, students jump into the fountain in the center of Washington Square Park in their caps and gowns.
As part of the graduation ceremonies, President John Sexton invites graduating seniors to the top floor of the Kimmel Center for champagne and strawberries.
Strawberry Fest is a street fair on West 4th St. held at the beginning of every spring.
The All-University Games pits students from each school against one another in competitions including sumo wrestling, tug of war, and dodgeball.
Many students participate in the yearly Relay for Life event in Coles Gym to support the American Cancer Society.
Billy Crystal (1970) actor/producer, appeared in movies like When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, and Analyze This
Philip Seymour Hoffman (1989) Oscar-winning actor, appeared in movies such as: Capote, Boogie Nights, and Almost Famous
Adam Sandler (1991) Actor/Comedian, appeared in movies like Happy Gilmore, the Wedding Singer and Big Daddy
Clive Davis, (1953) founder of Arista Records
Howard Cosell (1938) Legendary sportscaster
Allan Greenspan (1948) former chairman of the Federal Reserve
Arthur Agatston (1973) creator of the South Beach Diet
Paul Tagliabue (1965) commissioner of the NFL
NYU’s athletics program is usually spoken of in a mocking tone. The teams were originally called the Violets, but were recently changed to the Bobcats in a play on the school’s Bobst Library. NYU’s teams largely compete in Division III or the UAA. The women’s basketball team is probably the most successful team, with a national championship to its’ name.
NYU has recently attempted to gain more student support with the “Tear It Up” and “Real College Night” events, where they encourage students to attend sports games by offering free food and drinks. The success of these events have been marginal.
From 2004 to 2007, the Princeton Review ranked NYU as the country’s “#1 dream school” based on a survey of college applicants asking students what school they would most like to attend if acceptance rates and tuition costs were of no concern.
Although Greek life is not currently prevalent at the school, the organizations Zeta Psi, Alpha Epsilon Pi, and Delta Sigma Pi were founded at NYU.
The WB drama “Felicity” was set at the fictional University of New York, modeled after NYU.
NYU has recently completed a deal to build a campus in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates.
The Will Smith vehicle “I Am Legend” was shot around NYU’s campus.
NYU has two main dormitory communities: the predominantly freshman dorms – Hayden, Rubin, Weinstein, and Goddard – are located around Washington Square Park, and the community near Union Square - Palladium, Carlyle Court, Coral Towers, and University Hall. The rest of the dorms are scattered throughout downtown Manhattan.
Weinstein Hall has the distinction of being the only pre-1980 residence hall built specifically for NYU students, as the rest are converted apartments or hotels. It also has a two-level dining hall known as “Upstein” and “Downstein.” Despite their smaller rooms, students in Weinstein are known for being more sociable, and many parties are thrown inside this dorm.
Palladium Hall is named after the Palladium Club that the building used to house. There is also a dining hall and a full-scale gymnasium in the dorm. It largely houses sophomores and fulltime MBA students.
NYU is currently constructing a high-rise dorm on 12th St. that will replace the downtown Water St. dorm. The construction of this dorm has been contested by many community members who oppose NYU’s expansion in the Village.