GV community takes on NYU plan
In what promises to be a long process, Community Board 2 recommended last week that the City Planning Commission reject New York University’s (NYU) 2031 expansion plan in Greenwich Village. Although the decision was announced during CB2’s full board meeting, the gathering quickly turned into a community rallying cry against the Downtown university’s real estate development plans for two large plots it owns, bordered by West Houston, West 3rd and Mercer Streets and Laguardia Place.
“This is the end of the beginning…and there is a lot more work to do,” noted Community Board 2 Chair Brad Holyman to the crowd gathered at the Church of St. Anthony of Padua on Sullivan Street. “Some say that we are not rich enough, not powerful enough to take on [an organization] like NYU…If you had told Jane Jacobs that, she wouldn’t have stopped a highway [from being built through Soho].”
Almost 700 local residents from Greenwich Village and its environs were packed into the sub-floor auditorium, cheering Hoylman’s opening comments. The list of speakers topped out at 115, and media from online to print to NY1 attended to hear the community admonish NYU’s development goals.
NYU has become not only a beacon of higher education but a behemoth when it comes to Downtown New York City real estate. The school first established its Greenwich Village presence in 1835 and later moved the main campus to the Village after selling its Bronx University Heights location in 1973. Today, says CB2, NYU is “the landlord for one of the largest stocks of affordable housing in the area.”
The Greenwich Village portion of NYU’s expansion plan, which includes adding square footage in Brooklyn as well as possibly Governor’s Island, would add 2.4 million square feet to the existing main campus and would include faculty residences, student dormitories, an athletics facility, a hotel and retail spaces. The plan includes creating four new buildings on two “superblocks,” which are for the most part residences right now.
For CB2, there are a host of concerns associated with this plan, including the bulk and density of the development changing the character of the Village, 20-plus years of proposed construction and the acquistion of city-owned park strips.
The plan calls for rezoning the area, which CB2 says will greatly alter the character of the Village. The height of the proposed buildings, ranging from 186 to 333 feet, would dwarf the buildings currently on the property, which are around 160 feet. While NYU says there is less than one acre of open space in this area, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) claims there is actually a total of 7.8 acres. The GVSHP estimates the plan will eliminate over one acre of open space, and the height of the proposed buildings will cast shadows on the remaining open parcels.
“The plan is opposed by NYU’s neighbors, its faculty, its students and many of its own alumni,” added GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman in a statement.
“NYU appreciates the community’s feedback to date and believes that our five-year dialogue with our neighbors has already yielded tremendous results,” said NYU Vice President Alicia Hurley in a statement.
“Thus far, in response to the community’s requests, we’ve produced a strategic plan that helps our projected growth on space needs; allows us to grow our footprint, with a full half of our projected growth on space outside the Village; and provides park land and open space and the donation of a $23 million location for a new public school.”
As Council Member Margaret Chin pointed out in a statement, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer will now have to hold a hearing on the plan. Stringer has until April 11 to submit a recommendation to the City Planning Commission, who will begin their review that same day.
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