When Superstorm Sandy unleashed its devastation on NYU Langone Health’s main campus in October 2012, more than 15 million gallons of water surged through vents and other openings, filling basements and subbasements—all in about 30 minutes. In the depths of the Joan and Joel Smilow Research Center, located near the FDR Drive, a mix of water and fuel oil rose to a height of some seven feet, reaching the tops of doorways. The damage was so shocking that an administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, upon surveying the damage, remarked to NYU Langone officials, “Don’t look at this. Think about what’s next.”
Robert I. Grossman, MD, the Saul J. Farber Dean and CEO, needed no encouragement to see light at the end of the submerged tunnels. “Even as the torrent of water was pouring into our campus,” he told the class of 2013 at graduation, “I just knew we’d come out stronger.”
To ensure that the entire basement would be impervious to future flooding, it was essentially reengineered to function like a vault. NYU Langone’s office of Real Estate Development and Facilities devised a comprehensive flood mitigation system designed to withstand a 14-foot storm surge. Newly fortified and gut renovated, the Smilow basement is now home to two new state-of-the-art facilities that are advancing the frontiers of science and medicine—and fulfilling the most optimistic vision of NYU Langone’s leadership.
The Surgical Education Training Center, made possible in part thanks to a gift from Swiss philanthropist and international businessman Hansjörg Wyss, provides a high-tech rehearsal studio for surgeons, enabling them to master procedures and techniques used in some of the most complex, pioneering operations attempted anywhere. The facility features a procedure room, complete with 8 prosection stations, and an adjacent seminar room that can accommodate up to 140 visitors.
“To be a trailblazer for surgical procedures, NYU Langone must be an epicenter for training,” says Eduardo D. Rodriguez, MD, DDS, the Helen L. Kimmel Professor of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and chair of NYU Langone’s Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery. “This model facility enables us to groom champions.”
Its next-door neighbor, the Cryo-Electron Microscopy Lab, houses two massive microscopes that use subzero temperatures to capture proteins in a natural state and preserve features down to the atomic level. A suite of cameras can capture up to 1,000 high-resolution images within 24 hours, while NYU Langone’s new supercomputer, Big Purple, combines them into a single three-dimensional image.
“Setting up the facility was no small feat,” says David L. Stokes, PhD, professor of cell biology, who launched the core facility. The larger scope weighs 7,220 pounds while the smaller one tips the scales at 5,264 pounds. The components were transported from the Netherlands on a 747 cargo plane, and then painstakingly assembled on vibration-control platforms, all in temperature-controlled rooms shielded by aluminum-lined walls to eliminate electromagnetic interference.
“Both spaces were meticulously designed to provide distinct, specialized environments,” says Vicki Match Suna, AIA, senior vice president and vice dean for Real Estate Development and Facilities.