NYU Eyes Thousands of Hotel Rooms for Socially Distanced Dorms

New York University has explored leasing thousands of hotel rooms to house students for the fall semester, according to people familiar with the effort.

The university looked for rooms within walking distance of its Manhattan campus in recent weeks, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing a private matter.

Representatives for NYU didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.

Colleges and universities sent students home in March and are grappling with when it will be safe to bring them back for classes. Hotels, which have emptied out during the pandemic, are emerging as an option for schools that need more space to allow social-distancing.

Northeastern University has secured an additional 2,000 beds in hotels and apartments near its Boston campus to reduce density in its residence halls, according to Michael Armini, a spokesman for the school.

In New York, it’s unclear if NYU’s search for rooms is ongoing. The school has the potential to solve two problems at once, soaking up excess supply of hotel rooms while helping the university add space to let students spread out.

NYU typically announces room assignments in July, according to a frequently asked questions page on its website. It opens its residence halls to thousands of students on move-in day, clogging Manhattan streets as students pour in for the start of the semester.

“We anticipate that students will be able to begin their Fall semester studies on time,” the university wrote on a separate page on its website. “The safety of our students is of utmost priority and, should the need arise, we are prepared to make the necessary adjustments to ensure the continuity of the student experience.”

Moving students into hotel rooms would be the latest example of adapting real estate to new uses during the Covid-19 pandemic. Manhattan hotels, hammered by the coronavirus, have filled rooms by striking deals with emergency workers and homeless organizations.

On March 17, NYU administrators asked students to pack up their possessions to prepare for the possibility that the state would seek dorms for medical uses, according to an email obtained by Bloomberg.

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