Parsons School of Design

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Parsons School of Design
Parsons School of Design.png
Former names
Chase School (1896–1898)
New York School of Art (1898–1909)
New York School of Fine And Applied Art (1909–1936)
Parsons The New School for Design (2005–2015)
TypePrivate Art and Design School
Parent institution
The New School
DeanRachel Schreiber
Academic staff
United States

40°44′07″N 73°59′39″W / 40.73528°N 73.99417°W / 40.73528; -73.99417
ColorsParsons Red[3]   
MascotGnarls the Narwhal[5]
Parsons David Schwartz Fashion Education Center 560 Seventh Avenue.jpg

Parsons School of Design, known colloquially as Parsons, is a private art and design college located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan in New York City. It is one of the five colleges of The New School. Parsons is consistently ranked one of the best art and design schools in the United States, together with MIT and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).[6]

Founded in 1896 by William Merritt Chase as The Chase School to support individuals’ artistic expressions, Parsons was the first of its kind in the country to offer programs in fashion design, advertising, interior design, and communication design, which it continues to offer today. It also offers undergraduate and graduate programs in a range of disciplines in art and design, such as architectural design, history of design, art history, fine art, curatorial studies, illustration, design and technology, data vizualization, product design, as well as strategic design and management. The school is recognized for its MA in History of Design and Curatorial Studies in partnership with the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, as well as its Graduate Fellowship program in impact entrepreneurship funded by the Kauffman Foundation.[7]

Parsons programs are known for combining rigorous interdisciplinary research with advanced studio practices to clarify, challenge, and communicate new realities that have either been marginalized or not yet recognized in established discourses.[8] Students at the school investigate the conditions through which new analogies, metaphors, and models for understanding objects of enquiry can emerge, and learn to identify new relationships within complex systems. They are supported by renown theorists and practitioners in the arts. Notable faculty members include Frank Lloyd Wright, Piet Mondrian, Tim Gunn, Soon Yu, Emily Oberman, Ben Katchor, Lauren Redniss, James Romberger, Charlotte Shulz, and Peter Kuper. Many of whom have been a recipient of MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellowships, Guggenheim Fellowships, Eisner Awards, and other industry awards.

The school has produced cutting-edge scholarship for over a century, and it continues to do so through its university research centers. Design, innovation, and sustainable development are overarching themes at research centers such as the Visualizing Finance Lab, which explores how narrative visualization can help individuals improve their financial literacy and financial behaviors, the DEED (Development through Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and Design), which focuses on the future of indigenous artisans and their children, the PETLab (Prototyping, Education, and Technology Lab) for public interest game design and interactive media, the E-Lab, a design-driven business lab for entrepreneurship, the DESIS Lab (The Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability Lab), and the Healthy Materials Lab.[9]

Other research centers study how arts-based methods for participatory action research can activate social and political participation. This includes the Tishman Environment and Design Center, which investigates how bold design, policy, and social justice approaches to environmental issues can advance just and sustainable outcomes in collaboration with communities,[10] the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, the Center for New York City Affairs, as well as the Housing Justice Lab for equitable neighborhood development.[9]

Among Parsons alumni are artists, designers, entrepreneurs, photographers, architects, illustrators, fashion designers, graphic designers, theorists, and critics who have made significant contributions to their respective fields.

The college is a member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design.


Portrait of William Merritt Chase from 1900

First established as The Chase School, the institution was founded in 1896 by the American impressionist painter William Merritt Chase (1849–1916). Chase led a small group of Progressives who seceded from the Art Students League of New York in search of an institution that would champion more free, dramatic, individualistic expressions in art.[11] The Chase School renamed in 1898 to The New York School of Art.

In 1904, Frank Alvah Parsons joined artist Robert Henri as a professor at the school. Around the same time, Parsons studied under the tutelage of vanguard artist and educator, Arthur Wesley Dow at Columbia University. He graduated in 1905 with a degree in fine arts,[12] and became the President of The New York School of Art a few years later.

Seeing a new wave of the Industrial Revolution, Parsons anticipated the importance of art and design to industries. His vision led to a series of firsts at the school: he established the first programs in fashion design, interior design, advertising, and graphic design in the United States.[13] In 1909, the school was renamed The New York School of Fine and Applied Art to reflect the new offerings that would combine art and design. Parsons became the sole director of the school in 1911, and held the position until he died in 1930.

William M. Odom, who established the school's Paris ateliers in 1921, succeeded Parsons as the President. In honor of Parsons, whose teaching philosophy and theories on the intersections between art and design steered the school's development, the school became the Parsons School of Design in 1941.[13]

As the curriculum developed, many successful designers maintained close ties with the school, and by the mid-1960s, Parsons had become "the training ground for Seventh Avenue."[13]

In 1970, through the efforts of future Parsons Dean David C. Levy, Parsons joined the New School for Social Research, allowing for the expansion of degree programs, research, and partnerships and beginning an era in which design is regarded as a means of creating a more just, sustainable world.[14]

In 2005, when the parent institution was renamed The New School, the school was rebranded as Parsons The New School for Design.[13] In 2015, it rebranded again as The New School's Parsons School of Design.

In 2015, Pentagram Partner Paula Scher led the official redesign of The New School's brand together with Parsons’,[15] and worked with Parsons students to create a special environmental installation at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center as well as on the campus water towers to introduce the new identity.[16]

In 2019, IBM approached The New School to develop university courses and a first-of-its-kind Quantum Design Jam with IBM Quantum Experts, New School students, researchers, and faculty.[17] This led to the creation of Parsons’ first quantum computing course co-taught by Lin Zhou and Sven Travis.[18] Parsons’ Quantum Computing for Design and Social Research project entry subsequently won a FutureEdge 50 Award.[18]

In the same year, the MS in Data Visualization program at Parsons partnered with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Students were tasked with interpreting data from The Met Open Access API to design creative presentations on their choice of topics.[19] The effort was recognized by The Met's Jennie Choi, General Manager of Collections Information, for "revealing connections [the team] didn't know existed".[19]

In 2020, the United Nations collaborated with students from the Global Executive Master of Science in Strategic Design and Management (GEMS), to promote the UN's Global Communications group's "Decade of Action" campaign.[20] The collaboration focused on human-centered experiences and solutions for climate change and gender equality that would resonate across cultures, generations, and socioeconomic levels.[20]

In 2022, Parsons’ communications design department celebrated its centennial with the book "1, 10, 100 Years: Form, Typography, and Interaction at Parsons". The department offered the first undergraduate program of its kind when Parsons began teaching courses in the subject 100 years ago.[21]


Like most universities in New York City, Parsons' campus is spread across buildings, but the main building is on 13th Street and 5th Avenue. While many facilities are in buildings shared by other colleges of The New School, the list below features buildings and facilities that are designed for Parsons programs. Parsons also has a campus abroad located in the 1st Arrondissement of Paris, known as Parsons Paris.

University Center[edit]

The New School University Center at 14th Street and Fifth Avenue, a LEED Gold building completed in 2014

The New School opened the 16-story The New School University Center ("UC") at 65 5th Avenue in January 2014.

While the 65 Fifth Avenue plans were initially controversial among students and Village residents (spurring a major student occupation in 2009 at The New School's previous building on the same site), plans for the University Center were adjusted in response to community concerns and have since been well received. In a review of the University Center's final design, The New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff called the building "a celebration of the cosmopolitan city".

The tower designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's Roger Duffy is the largest capital project the university has ever undertaken. The building added classrooms, residences, computer labs, event facilities, and a cafeteria to the downtown New York City campus in addition to a two-story library and lecture halls. While the UC serves as a central hub for all New School students, the majority of its classrooms and workspaces are used by Parsons students.

The UC also houses part of The New School Art Collection, transforming the public spaces into forums for examining contemporary art. The Collection, now grown to approximately 2,000 postwar and contemporary works of art, offers students and faculty an opportunity to engage with art on a daily basis, making it a distinctive component of their educational experience. The Collection has continued the school's legacy of supporting self-discovery and visionary social, intellectual, and aesthetic experimentation, as well as its tradition of incorporating site-specific works into its public spaces. The school commissioned five socially-themed frescoes by José Clemente Orozco in mid-January 1931, and to date is the only permanent, public examples of this fresco form from Mexico in New York City.[22] The school's former boardroom featured the commissioned work by Thomas Hart Benton, America Today, which is now on-view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[23] Recent commissioned works by artists such as Sol LeWitt, Kara Walker, Martin Puryear, Dave Muller, and Parsons alumni Brian Tolle, are complemented by the five new site-specific artworks in the UC by Glenn Ligon, Rita McBride, New School alumni Agnes Denes, New School honorary degree recipient Alfredo Jaar, as well as Parsons faculty member Andrea Geyer.[24]

The Sheila Johnson Design Center[edit]

2 West 13th Street/66 Fifth Avenue is commonly known as the Sheila Johnson Design Center. The Parsons campus is located at 2 West 13th Street in Greenwich Village in the borough of Manhattan.[25] The 12-story L-shaped building, at the corner of 70 Fifth Avenue and 2 W13th street was originally built in 1914 as an office and loft building. It housed the national office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from February 1914 to June 1923. It was also the location for many unions and justice organizations before it was acquired by The New School in 1972, including the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM) (which founded the National Civil Liberties Bureau and later became the ACLU), League for Industrial Democracy, League of Nations Union, New York City Teachers Union and Woman's Peace Party. The building was designated a NYC landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on May 18, 2021, formally recognizing its history of supporting organizations that advanced justice, civil and political rights, as well as democratic values.[26]

The renovation of the existing structure's first and mezzanine levels was made possible in part by a $7 million gift from New School Trustee and Parsons Board of Governors Chair Sheila Johnson. The "Urban Quad" was designed by Lyn Rice Architects and encompasses a total area of 32,800 square feet (3,050 m2). In addition to classrooms and common areas, the building features the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery and Auditorium, and the Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries.[27] The renovated ground floor also contains the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Archives, a collection of drawings, photographs, letters, and objects documenting 20th-century design.

The building hosted the Adam and Sophie Gimbel Design Library, a resource collection supporting art, architecture and design degree programs offered by the Parsons School of Design. The collection, now relocated to the UC, consists of approximately 45,000 book volumes, 350 periodical titles (200 current), 70,000 slides and 45,000 picture files. Special collections holdings number over 4,000, including many rare and valuable items.[28]

The building's renovation won the 2007 American Instiute of Architects New York (AIANY) Merit Award for Projects, the 2008 AIANY/Boston Society of Architects Biennial Honor Award for Educational Facility Design, 2008 AIA New York State Award of Excellence, the 2008 SARA/NY Design Award of Excellence, the 2009 National AIA Honor Award, the 2009 MASNYC Masterworks Award, and the 2009 AIANY Merit Award.[29]

On Monday, April 2, 2018, the 2 West 13th Street building was affected by an electrical fire, which broke out in the basement at around 10:40 AM. The building was quickly and safely evacuated thanks to the teamwork of all students, faculty, and staff, and the building remained closed for the remainder of the Spring 2018 semester. 375 courses taught at the building were relocated to other buildings of The New School. The cause of the fire has been attributed to the water leakage from the basement ceiling, which soaked the electrical switchgear and sparked the circuit breakers.[30]

Parsons East Building[edit]

The Parsons East Building, located at 25 East 13th Street building is home to the School of Constructed Environments, which houses the Interior Design, Lighting Design, and Architecture and Product Design departments of the college. The Fine Arts department is also located in this building. Facilities in this building include the digital and traditional fabrication shops, the Laser Cutting lab, the Light Lab, multiple Computing Labs, the Angelo Donghia Materials Center, the Healthy Materials Library, and The Design Workshop.[31]

Albert and Vera List Academic Center[edit]

The 16th Street building, known as the Vera List Center, features dedicated floors to design studies and development.[clarification needed] Both the 6th and 12th floors are dedicated to the Design & Technology Bachelor and Master programs. The building also features a library.[citation needed]

Loeb Hall[edit]



Parsons offers twenty-five different programs each housed in one of five divisions:[33]

  • School of Art and Design History and Theory – Dean Rhonda Garelick
  • School of Art, Media, and Technology – Dean Anne Gaines
  • School of Constructed Environments – Dean Robert Kirkbride
  • School of Design Strategies: Cities, Services, Ecosystems – Dean Jane Pirone
  • School of Fashion – Dean Burak Cakmak


In 2021, the Parsons School of Design was ranked third globally and first in the United States in the QS World University Rankings by subject.[34]

Admission and student demographics[edit]

Demographics of student body[35]
1st Year Students U.S. Census
African American/Non-Hispanic 4% 12.4%
Asian American/Pacific Islander 18% 4.3%
White 29% 74.1%
Hispanic American 9% 14.7%
American Indian/Alaskan Native <1% 0.8%
International students 31% N/A
Total 92% 106.3%

Parsons has an enrollment of approximately 3,800 undergraduate students and 400 graduate students. The student body is 77% women and 23% men, with most of the constituents being full-time students.[36] About one third of the college is made up of international students hailing from 68 countries. The largest international groups come from Asia, followed by Europe.[37] 82% students received some form of merit-based financial aid between 2019 and 2020.[38]

There are 127 full-time faculty members and 1,056 part-time faculty members, many of whom are successful theorists and practitioners in the arts in New York City. The student:faculty ratio is 9:1.[39]

Expansion and affiliations[edit]

In 1920, Parsons School of Design was the first art and design school in America to found a campus abroad.[37]


Director of the New York School of Fine and Applied Art, Frank Alvah Parsons, began a program in Paris in 1921.[40] The following year, the school established a campus on the oldest planned square in Paris, the Place des Vosges. According to Parsons, "France, more than any country, has been the center of artistic inspiration since the sixteenth century… The value of associating with, and working from, the finest examples of the periods in decorative art, the adaptation of which is our national problem, needs no comment."[41] The school offered courses in architecture, interior decoration, stage design, and costume design, adding poster and graphic design a year later. Among its supporters were interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe and author and interior designer Edith Wharton.

In 1931, interior designer Jean-Michel Frank led a group of students at the Paris Ateliers and created an icon of modern design, the Parsons Table.[42] After teaching advertising, illustration, and stage and costume design, Van Day Truex became the director of the Paris Ateliers in 1934. An influential voice of 20th-century American design, Truex assumed the position of Tiffany & Company’s design director following his appointment at Parsons, and developed the firm's signature interiors and graphics. Guest critics at the Paris Ateliers during this period include fashion designers Jeanne Lanvin, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Jean Patou.

After closing before the onset of World War II in 1939, Parsons restarted its activities in Paris in 1948 offering a summer course combining travel and study. What is now the Parsons School of Design reopened the School (at first with a summer abroad program in the late 1970s), and became known as Parsons Paris. In 1980, Parsons expanded its Paris program, entering into an educational partnership with the American College in Paris (now American University in Paris), to offer Bachelor of Fine Arts programs and study-abroad options. Beginning in 1986, students matriculating in the Parsons Paris program were eligible to receive a degree from Parsons School of Design.

When the contract between Parsons School of Design and Parsons Paris expired in 2008, the former decided against its renewal. Parsons notified the Paris school that it could not continue to use the "Parsons" name. The Paris school challenged the decision and brought legal proceeding before the International Chamber of Commerce, which ultimately ruled in favor of Parsons.[43] The Paris school, which continues to operate as the Paris College of Art, is no longer affiliated with Parsons or The New School.

Parsons Paris[edit]

In November 2012, The New School President David E. Van Zandt, formerly the Dean of Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law from 1995 to 2011, announced that the Parsons School of Design would open a new academic center called Parsons Paris in Paris in autumn 2013.[44] Located in the 1st Arrondissement of Paris, Parsons Paris is taught by French and European professors as well as visiting professors from around the world. The school offers a variety of bachelor's and master's degrees in design, fashion, curatorial studies and business. All classes are taught in English.[45]

Notable alumni[edit]

Parsons is known for being the alma mater to many influential theorists and practitioners in the field of art and design including Jasper Johns, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, Norman Rockwell, Duane Michals, Ai Weiwei, Joel Schumacher, Peter de Sève, Julie Umerle, Sara Little Turnbull, and Danielle Mastrion.[citation needed] Designers Paul Rand and Mario Buatta also attended the school.

The school has educated some of the most famous designers in the fashion industry as well, including Donna Karan, Kay Unger, Scott Salvator, Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang, Tom Ford, Anna Sui, Jason Wu, Narciso Rodriguez, Sophie Buhai, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, Isaac Mizrahi, Samantha Sleeper, Irina Fedotova, Derek Lam, Prabal Gurung, Heron Preston, Jenna Lyons, Jo Copeland, Jasper Conran and Yeohlee Teng.[citation needed]

Notable alumni from famous families include Bella Hadid, Nicky Hilton Rothschild, Rina Bovrisse,[46] Sailor Brinkley Cook (daughter of Christie Brinkley), Brooklyn Beckham, and Alexandra von Fürstenberg.[47]

Student life[edit]

The Student Development and Activities is home to over 25 recognized student organizations throughout The New School that serves the five schools under the umbrella of The New School, including Parsons.[48] Parsons in particular is recognized for offering students access to connections and collaborations with other universities in New York, including Columbia Business School[49] and Cornell Tech.[50]


  • re:D is the magazine for Parsons alumni and the wider Parsons community, published by the New School Alumni Association.[51]
  • Scapes is the annual journal of the School of Constructed Environments.
  • The Journal of Design Strategies explores and documents collaborative work on the borders of management and design.[52]
  • The Parsons Journal for Information Mapping (PJIM) is published quarterly by the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping and focuses on both the theoretical and practical aspects of information visualization.[53]
  • BIAS: Journal of Dress Practice published by the MA Fashion Studies Dress Practice Collective started in the spring of 2013 and aims to join elements of "visual culture, fashion theory, design studies and personal practice through a variety of media."[54]
  • The Fashion Studies Journal ' is a monthly peer-reviewed academic journal for fashion scholarship and criticism. It was established in 2012 as a platform for graduate-level writing[55]


WNSR is a student-run, faculty-advised online-only university radio station based at The New School. Programming is delivered in the form of streamable mp3s and, in the near future, subscribable podcasts. It is a station for all divisions of The New School.[56]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "FAQ | Parsons School of Design".
  2. ^ "Graduate | Parsons School of Design".
  3. ^[bare URL PDF]
  4. ^ a b c d "Accreditation | Parsons School of Design".
  5. ^ "Where is Gnarls the Narwhal | Student Leadership".
  6. ^ York, The New School 66 West 12th Street New; Ny 10011 (2020-06-17). "Parsons School of Design Named Best Art and Design School in the Country". New School News. Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  7. ^ "Ecosystem Partners | Impact Entrepreneurship Initiative". Retrieved 2022-03-24.
  8. ^ "Academics | Parsons School of Design". Retrieved 2022-03-25.
  9. ^ a b "Research Centers and Labs | Parsons School of Design". Retrieved 2022-03-24.
  10. ^ "Tishman Environment and Design Center | The New School". Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  11. ^ "About Parsons". Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  12. ^ "9. Jews at Columbia", Stand, Columbia, Columbia University Press, pp. 256–276, 2003-12-31, doi:10.7312/mcca13008-011, ISBN 978-0-231-50355-6
  13. ^ a b c d "History of Parsons School of Design". Retrieved December 6, 2014.
  14. ^ "History | Parsons School of Design". Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  15. ^ Dunne, Carey (2015-03-30). "Pentagram Rebrands The New School". Fast Company. Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  16. ^ "The New School — Story". Pentagram. Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  17. ^ "Quantum Computing for Design and Social Good". SXSW 2022 Schedule. Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  18. ^ a b "Taking a Quantum Leap Forward with IBM | Parsons School of Design". Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  19. ^ a b Retrieved 2022-03-23. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^ a b York, The New School 66 West 12th Street New; Ny 10011 (2020-11-12). "Parsons School of Design's GEMS Program Creates a Climate Action Campaign for the United Nations". New School News. Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  21. ^ York, The New School 66 West 12th Street New; Ny 10011 (2022-03-10). "Communication Design at Parsons Celebrates Centennial with New Book". New School News. Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  22. ^ "Orozco's New School Murals | Re-Imagining Orozco | University Art Collection". Retrieved 2022-03-24.
  23. ^ Retrieved 2022-03-24. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ "University Art Collection | The New School". Retrieved 2022-03-24.
  25. ^ "Sheila Johnson Design Center". Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  26. ^ Davenport, Emily (May 18, 2021). ""Two historic Manhattan buildings unanimously voted to receive landmark status"". AAMNY. Retrieved May 27, 2021.
  27. ^ "Johnson Design Ceenter". Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  28. ^ "Libraries". Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  29. ^ "Projects: Institutional – Parsons The New School For Design". Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  30. ^ "Dear Faculty and Students: Institutional – Parsons The New School For Design". Retrieved April 20, 2018.
  31. ^ "School of Constructed Environments".
  32. ^ Loeb Hall opened its doors in August 1989 and is the first residence hall owned and operated by The New School. An energetic and passionate residence life staff make Loeb Hall ideal for college students looking for a strong community and active programs and events.
  33. ^ "Design School Undergraduate Degrees and Graduate Programs". Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  34. ^ "QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021: Art & Design".
  35. ^ "Parsons The New School for Design | Parsons | The College Board".
  36. ^ "Parsons: The New School for Design". College Board College Search.
  37. ^ a b "About Parsons". Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  38. ^ "Admission and Aid | Parsons School of Design". Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  39. ^ "Parsons: The New School for Design – Overview". Petersons College Search.
  40. ^ D. D. GUTTENPLAN (November 11, 2012). "Parsons to Re-Open Campus in Paris". The New York Times.
  41. ^ "The New School Libraries and Archives". 1922.
  42. ^ "PARSONS RETURNS TO PARIS". 9 November 2012.
  43. ^ Hays, Kali (October 24, 2012). "We'll Always Have Paris . . . and Shanghai, and Mumbai".
  44. ^ Alexander, Ella (November 13, 2012). "Parsons To Reopen In Paris". Vogue.
  45. ^ D. D. Guttenplan (November 11, 2012). "Parsons to Re-Open Campus in Paris". The New York Times.
  46. ^ Pesek, William. "Is it Time for a Woman to Run Tokyo?". Retrieved 2021-06-29.
  47. ^ "Alexandra von Furstenberg fait l'éloge de la couleur". (in French). Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  48. ^ "Student Services". Archived from the original on August 19, 2009. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  49. ^ "Parsons and Columbia Business School Design Luxury Goods" (PDF).
  50. ^ "Cornell Tech - Parsons, Cornell Tech Students Team Up To Design Real-World Solutions". Cornell Tech. 2017-03-06. Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  51. ^ "re:D". Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  52. ^ "Projects Archive". School of Design Strategies.
  53. ^ "School of Design Strategies".
  54. ^ "dresspracticecollective". dresspracticecollective.
  55. ^ "The Fashion Studies Journal". The Fashion Studies Journal.
  56. ^ "WNSR / New School Radio". Archived from the original on July 4, 2009. Retrieved August 9, 2010.

Coordinates: 40°44′07″N 73°59′39″W / 40.73528°N 73.99417°W / 40.73528; -73.99417