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Furman Hall, the $98 million addition to New York University School of Law under construction and courtroom controversy since September 2001, opened for classes on Monday morning. Administrators finished moving into their new offices over the December holidays. The dream of John E. Sexton, the university’s president and its former law school dean, Furman Hall’s 171,000 square feet of space facing Sullivan Street complements the 199,000 square feet of adjacent Vanderbilt Hall on Washington Square South. A below-street walkway connects Furman Hall with the library at Vanderbilt Hall. “We have almost doubled the space of our law school campus without enlarging student enrollment,” said Dean Richard Revesz. “Rather, our intent is to provide the most hospitable learning environment for intellectual growth — one that meets the needs of the 21st-century law student. This was John Sexton’s vision, and I believe it has been admirably realized.” Individual gifts as little as $25 and as much as $1 million contributed to the overall fund-raising effort, said Jeannie Forrest, associate dean for development and alumni relations at NYU Law. In terms of organization grants, Forrest is especially pleased with the $1.5 million given by the Kresge Foundation. “In the foundation world, it’s a coup — like getting the Good Housekeeping seal of approval,” said Forrest. “In this case, Kresge wanted us to ‘build a community’ around our fund-raising program. So they offered $1.5 million if we could raise $5.5 million from [alumni] who hadn’t donated before.” The new building contains six critically needed classroom spaces; two full floors for legal clinics, designed in law firm style, including the requisite winding stairway connection; 16 seminar rooms; moot courtrooms; a student lounge and caf�, with banquettes and a dramatic balcony; group study rooms accommodating as many as eight students; and a suite for the school’s Global Law Center. It also contains nine faculty apartments, consisting of seven three-bedroom and two four-bedroom units, and at Sexton’s insistence, a dramatic top-floor space with a 29-foot barreled ceiling and wrap-around terraces offering uptown, downtown and Hudson River views — strictly reserved for faculty meetings. Nearly all spaces throughout the new building are equipped for wireless Internet connection. Named for real estate developer Jay Furman, a 1971 alumnus of NYU Law, the nine-story red brick Furman Hall incorporates reconstructed elements of two historic buildings owned by the university: the fa�ades of Judson House, renovated by the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White in 1899, and a 19th-century row house notable for its occupation by the writer Edgar Allan Poe for six months in 1845-’46. Under the original plans for Furman Hall, the so-called Poe House would have been demolished completely. A band of historical preservationists, aided by celebrities and some NYU faculty members, challenged that part of the plan before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Robert D. Lippman, who eventually brokered a compromise. “No one is questioning the need for the university’s law school to expand, but surely it can be worked out in a way that does not destroy yet another piece of this fast-vanishing area,” wrote filmmaker Woody Allen in a letter published by The New York Times prior to the compromise. “It is hard for me to believe that a great institution like NYU, which had the foresight and good taste to expel me many years ago, would be insensitive to this situation.” Artifacts from the Poe House are now part of a street-level public section of Furman Hall that commemorates the life and literature of the famous author of macabre tales. In addition, Furman Hall, designed by the architectural firm Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, was built to a height of 128 feet in order to preserve the open sky view behind the campanile of historic Judson Hall to the south, which is owned by NYU. In addition to Allen, opponents of the original plan for Furman Hall included rock-and-roll legend Lou Reed and novelist E.L. Doctorow, who is also a professor of creative writing at NYU. In the cause of Poe history, Doctorow met with Sexton during the compromise process. Furman Hall, the first new academic building at NYU Law in more than 50 years, has its own distinction in city history: It was the first construction project in Manhattan following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. At the groundbreaking ceremony three years ago on Sept. 28, Sexton said, “This project affirms our commitment to prepare our students to seek justice through law.” Also present at the groundbreaking was U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who said, “The need for lawyers does not diminish in times of crisis, it only increases.” NYU Law, she added, “will continue to play an important role in training lawyers who understand the need to convince a sometimes hostile world that our dream of a society that conforms to the rule of law is a dream we all should share.” Furman Hall will be officially dedicated on Jan. 22 with a 6 p.m. ceremony and dinner. Scheduled participants include Roscoe Pound, dean emeritus of Harvard Law School; Arthur T. Vanderbilt, chief justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey and dean emeritus of NYU Law; Sir Francis Raymond Evershed, The Master of the Rolls of England; A. Thomas Levin, president of the New York State Bar Association; Elena Kagan, dean of Harvard Law; and The Right Honourable The Lord Slynn of Hadley, law lord of the British House of Lords.

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