NEW YORK CITY-During the lean years for development citywide following the capital markets crisis in the fall of 2008, it was institutions—including schools and hospitals—that helped keep the construction sector afloat. The New York Building Congress said Wednesday that public and private institutions initiated $14.8 billion in construction projects between June of ’08 and this past May.

The educational sector accounted for 61% of that tally, with public schools alone comprising 40% of the total for construction starts, according to a Building Congress analysis of McGraw Hill Construction Dodge data. “Lost in the recent discussion of Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy are his great achievements in repairing, modernizing and expanding New York City’s public schools,” says Building Congress president Richard T. Anderson. “Undeniably, the mayor has left the physical condition of our schools in far better condition than he found them 12 years ago.”

Even so, the largest projects in terms of dollar value came not from schools or universities, but from the life sciences sector. Five of the top seven projects were comprised of medical and scientific research facilities, with the top five as follows: the Weill Cornell Biomedical Research Building; the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center expansion; the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center; the East River Science Park West Tower; and the new Whitney Museum of American Art.

About 53% of the construction starts over the past five years have been ground-up building of new facilities. The remaining 47% of starts were renovations and alterations to existing structures. 

Even as multifamily and office development are back on the map, Anderson says the Building Congress foresees “continued strength” among institutions. “In addition to New York’s public schools, the City’s colleges and universities, particularly, are poised for growth, thanks in large part to Columbia University’s Manhattanville expansion, New York University’s NYU 2031 plan, and the creation of Cornell University’s CornellNYC Tech campus on Roosevelt Island.”