Take a stroll through the streets of Dobbs Ferry and odds are you will notice more Mercy College apparel than in years past.
Pop into the Stop & Shop in the heart of town, especially late on a weeknight, and you’re likely to see a number of Mavericks sweatshirts at the checkout line – usually student-athletes stocking up on sports drinks or granola bars.
Some residents are happy. Some are sad to see the gradual change. Others are indifferent. Most agree that a gradual metamorphosis is underway in the Rivertown village of 11,059 residents – soon to be 11,409.
On Dec. 18, Mercy College unveiled Hudson Hall, its $32 million, 100,000-square-foot residence hall that will house 350 students on the 66-acre campus on the village’s northern border with Irvington. The hall includes 18 six-bed suites, 57 four-bed suites, a 5,000-square-foot fitness center and a Starbucks Cafe and convenience store.
Students are expected to move in this month, which would bring the total number of residents on campus to 669, or about 8 percent of total undergraduate enrollment at Mercy’s four campuses in Dobbs Ferry, Yorktown Heights, Manhattan and the Bronx. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Dec. 18 for the dorm, which also includes community and lounge spaces that officials said will “enhance the student experience.”
Prior to the ceremony, Mercy College President Timothy L. Hall said he hoped the new dorm would increase student interaction at a college that has earned a reputation largely as a commuter school. Its expansive parking lots often are deserted on weeknights and weekends.
“The new residence hall will help increase student engagement on campus and build a sense of community,” Hall said. “We are doing more to help our students succeed, and one of those things is providing places and opportunities for them to make connections with one another.”
Adam Weinstein, a senior business major at Mercy and a Dobbs Ferry native, said in his two years since transferring to the school, he has noticed an uptick in students on campus and roaming town.
“Each year I see more and more Mercy students all throughout this village, some of whom I recognize but most that I don’t,” said Weinstein. “It’s the Mercy College apparel that gives it away.”
On the Mercy website, college officials laud the 2015-16 academic year as one of “record-breaking enrollment” – a total of 11,272, including 7,939 undergraduates and 3,333 graduate students. That has created a residential community that officials said is “vibrant and in high demand.”
Most of the students who will move in to Hudson Hall have been living at the Westchester Marriott, Residence Inn, Hyatt House and Hampton Inn hotels in the area. The school has provided a day and evening shuttle for those students and another to 145 Palisade St. in Dobbs Ferry for off-campus students and Metro-North Railroad commuters. An increasing number of students are choosing off-campus rentals along Broadway, Cedar Street and Main Street, the village’s three main thoroughfares.
The school’s original residence hall, renamed Founders Hall since the opening of the new dorm, houses an additional 319 students. Room rates for Founders Hall ranges from $7,598 for a quad to $9,350 for a single room per academic year.
“With the building of this new residence hall more students here at Mercy College will make friendships that will last a lifetime and get involved in groups they didn’t even know existed,” Student Government President Ray Woznick said. “We have been asking for more suites, more lounges – more Mercy, really – and we even got a Starbucks.”
The construction project, which began in September 2014, had been strongly opposed by residents of The Landing on the Water, a 103-townhouse complex on 35.5 acres that flanks Mercy College.
Noise, traffic and the population increase were among the issues raised by The Landing on the Water Homeowners Association as well as concerned residents from both Dobbs Ferry and Irvington. In a letter presented to the Irvington Planning Board in 2012, Jim Hornstein, president of the homeowners association, called the school an “unreliable and negative neighbor” due to what he said were unreliable student counts to justify the need for a new dorm.
“We know that Mercy is responsible for 65 percent of the traffic on Route 9, and pays no income taxes to either Irvington or Dobbs Ferry,” Hornstein wrote.
Weinstein, the business major living off-campus, said the change to a more residential college is noticeable yet gradual.
“I see Mercy as more of a commuter school, as most of the friends I have made over the years live 30 minutes away or farther,” he said. “I do feel as if the school is trying to remedy this with the construction of the new dorms and availability of more off-campus housing.”