Message about 41 Cooper Square

February 8, 2019

Dear Cooper Community,

This has been a trying week for our community.  Unexpected situations, by their very nature, are disruptive, and that has certainly been the case with the flooding and closure of 41 Cooper Square.  Situations like these, though, can also evoke good.  I’ve seen that this week in how people banded together to be supportive of one another and to quickly identify alternatives and solutions where possible for those displaced from 41CS.  Engineering students have been meeting in study groups to explore class material; artists with studios in the Foundation Building have opened their spaces to their peers; and students across all three schools have expressed concern and empathy for their classmates who typically rely on 41CS every day.  The Writing Center found a temporary home in the Library, and the Data Science for Social Good course pinned up a crit in the Foundation Building, bringing new faces and classes to new spaces. New work, friends, and learning styles are being born out of our constrained environment.  I am thankful for the ingenuity and creativity that is always at the core of Cooper, and I will encourage us to reflect on what we can take away and learn from this experience.  

I want to assure you that the building closure this week does not in any way jeopardize a successful completion of the spring semester or graduation.  Our Cabinet has been in daily contact since the weekend and has been making recommendations to faculty on how best to move forward.  Some faculty found alternative solutions to conduct their classes – whether meeting virtually or in alternative spaces.  As we reported last night, we have proactively been reaching out to neighboring schools to arrange for the use of available meeting, classroom, and lab space should we be unable to open the building on Monday.  (At this point, we don’t anticipate this will be necessary but have been pursuing all avenues to be prepared.)  At the same time, Toni Torres is working to support our deans on class rescheduling and is also working with the New York State Department of Education to secure the maximum flexibility for semester requirements once 41CS is back up and running.

Building Status

In our daily bulletins, my intent was to update you on building recovery efforts.  I’d like to take this opportunity to provide a recap and some additional detail. More than 12,000 gallons of water entered the building during a 35-minute period on Saturday morning when a heating system coil and the sprinkler head on the roof burst due to the freezing temperatures that were prevalent across the region late last week.  As a result, the recovery process has been an enormous undertaking.  Our Buildings and Grounds team, led by Floyd Young, has been working tirelessly to restore the building for safe occupancy and to preserve work, studio and lab spaces, archives, offices, gallery space, storage areas, and classrooms.  In addition, IT, led by Robert Reinckens, has been working and continues to work to restore or replace necessary technology in classrooms and labs.  In close coordination with our insurer, we quickly identified experienced, external specialists in water remediation and conservation.  Personnel from Multiphase Electrical, Tri-State Mechanical, CPR, and an environmental hygienist have been on-site since Saturday.  Industrial-strength blowers have been drying out the building since the weekend.  Similarly, specialized freezers are on-site for moisture removal from critical materials.  The external crews are also providing electrical support and testing air quality and moisture in the walls. On Wednesday, The Conservation Center team began its work in assessing the damage and building remediation plans for artwork, film, books, and valuable papers.  Drywall has been removed and/or repaired.  Wet carpet has been dried or removed.  Cleaning crews have gone through the building each day. Air and moisture levels are being consistently monitored. More than 300 fire alarm devices are being replaced, and in the meantime, we have contracted fire watch services with one person for every two floors monitoring the space 24/7.  The elevator repair work continues.  The two local elevators were rendered inoperable when their electronic panels were damaged by the water.  Our contractor was able to rush delivery of the replacement parts, and the panels are being rebuilt, which is taking some time. 

Building Contents

In terms of the building, there is water damage on every floor. Some places sustained significant damage. Others were untouched. Among the deans and other school and departmental designees who we were able to schedule for walk-throughs of their areas in 41CS over the past two days, there was a sense of relief that the building and its contents were in better shape than anticipated.  Nonetheless, I understand how worrisome it has been for so many faculty and students concerned about the condition of materials, supplies, and their work.  The deans have noted any water damage they were able to see to student work or material and will be contacting those students directly to develop plans to address it.   Any materials or tools that are essential to completing student projects will be repaired or replaced as soon as possible.

What’s Next

The objective is to return 41CS to normalcy.  As soon as an elevator is operational, we will allow staff and faculty in the building to prepare classes, studios, and labs for Monday. To control the number of people in the building and to be sure that there is building support to assist with the set-up and further damage assessment, we will manage the re-entry of staff and faculty on a floor-by-floor basis. Until we announce the specifics of this re-entry plan, the building will remain closed, accessible only to essential personnel. Saturday Art and Engineering programs are being relocated to alternative spaces on campus.  

I know that many of you have questions, and we have tried to answer them in this list of frequently asked questions. If you have a question that hasn’t been answered here, please reach out to your Dean, Associate Dean, or Facilities at, and they will answer your question or track down an answer for you. We also encourage you to seek the resources provided by the Office of Student Affairs.

My Thanks

In addition to my deepest appreciation for our B&G team and our IT department, I am also thankful for our leadership team.  John Ruth and Natalie Brooks have been leading our building recovery plan from the very beginning. Toni Torres has been addressing all things academic with our deans and associate deans, and our entire Cabinet has been essential and engaged in organizing plans for faculty and students to continue to learn together and for all of us to move through and on from this situation in a way that is supportive and respectful of one another.  I am also thankful to the students who have worked to comfort their peers and encourage calm and productive inquiry in the face of a difficult situation.  

As we have said all week, we will continue to keep you apprised of the restoration progress, and as soon as we have details and timing for reopening 41CS, we will notify the full community.  Thank you again for your patience and cooperation.  



  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.