Koolhaas and Schrager declined to be interviewed, but in a lecture at Columbia University in February 2003, Koolhaas bragged that his design for Schrager had “inspired terror in the inventor of the boutique hotel,” and went on to recount his unsuccessful attempts to satisfy Schrager. He added: “Ultimately, it became very clear that America in its current mood would resist a certain kind of challenge as systematically as Ian Schrager.”
In order to retain its lease, Related had to submit another proposal—part of another round of bids competing with other developers—to get approval for a condo tower. This time, shrewdly, it hired Gwathmey.
Gwathmey—whose father, Robert, was, like De Niro’s father, a drawing professor at Cooper—stepped down from Cooper’s board almost five years ago. Almost two years ago, he was hired by Related to design the site. “Part of our decision-making process was absolutely influenced by the fact that Charles has close ties to Cooper,” says Blau, who met Gwathmey when he was pitching Cooper Union’s board with a presentation to partner with Schrager. “What easier way to get through that process than to hire one of Cooper’s most famous former professors who they knew and respected and who we knew could make our building iconic, which we wanted to do anyway?”
“It was a tough question,” adds Glaser, who was on the board for more than a decade before stepping down three years ago. “Basically the board wanted to have a plan that would not in any way damage the neighborhood, and at the same time the financial rewards of the development would justify starting the whole thing.”
Glaser says he and the board are pleased with Gwathmey’s design. “Ideally I wish the whole place were transformed into a university of the arts, but I don’t think that was one of our options.”