Community to University: Don’t Overwhelm Our Neighborhoods!

Written by AlanKrawitz on . Posted in Breaking News, Education, News Our Town Downtown, Our Town Downtown.


In so many ways, New York University has been a good neighbor and an integral, if not vital, part of the Downtown community.

But, when it comes to the venerable school’s ambitious, super-sized building plans, dubbed NYU 2031, which would add four new buildings covering several million square feet within the Washington Square core, many longtime residents of the Village are beginning to see the school in a less-than-neighborly light.

“We love the school, hate the plan,” said Brad Hoylman, chairman of Community Board 2, who attended Saturday’s rally at Judson Church, where hundreds turned out to protest NYU’s massive building plans.

Holding signs with slogans that read, “Flowers, not towers,” and “Condemned by NYU: Gardens going, going, gone,” a crowd of nearly 500 that included village residents, community activists and politicians expressed their disapproval of the scale and scope of NYU’s 20-year building plan that would effectively remake the face of Greenwich Village and the surrounding area.

“NYU’s position is to change the area zoning from its current residential/institutional character to one that emulates the center of Manhattan,” said Janet Hayes, a Republican district leader who attended the rally and lives on LaGuardia Place, near a Morton Williams Supermarket that is the site of a proposed school. “The 20-year plan allows for a high-rise, 40-story, block-long building and large commercial tenancies.”

Hayes added that many villagers see the NYU plan as self-serving, as opposed to the neighborhoods’ aspirations to preserve the character of the area. She also pointed out that the school had received—and declined—numerous offers to expand in Lower Manhattan below Canal Street.

Assembly Member Deborah Glick said that the plan in its current form would “severely alter” the low-rise character and quality of the Village. “In addition,” Glick said, “the four new towers would cast shadows where there were previously none.”

Hoylman called the rally at Judson Church a “call to action” as the board nears its Thursday, Feb. 23 deadline to consider a resolution on this issue and then send it on to the Department of City Planning on March 11. “Our recommendation, while advisory,” said Hoylman, “packs a punch.”

The NYU 2031 Plan is only a month into the lengthy, 7-month Uniform Land Use Review Procedure that involves approvals and recommendations from the Community Board, the borough president, Department of City Planning, City Council and the mayor.

While many in the community are already calling for the NYU plan to be scaled back, Hoylman says that the plan is too concentrated in a very small, dense area and will ultimately bring thousands of new residents, students and faculty members to an already overpopulated and vulnerable neighborhood that includes seniors and rent-stabilized residents.

“At the moment, there is really no flexibility on NYU’s part,” he said.

In response to the rally, NYU spokesman John Beckman issued the following statement: “As NYU continues to move through the city’s mandated public review process, we look forward to continuing our discussions with all stakeholders involved.”

Older residents have talked to me that the NYU 2031 plan resonates with Occupy Wall Street. Here we do not have a large financial institution but a financially well-endowed institution where elite interests and political dealings have likely trumped the people’s voice,” Jeanne Wilcke, president of the Downtown Independent Democrats.

Sean Sweeney, a member of CB2 and the SoHo Alliance, sees the NYU plan as having even more far-reaching effects.

“Although many say that this NYU plan will affect the Village only, in fact it will severely impact Soho, Noho and Tribeca much more than most of the Village, since the plans for construction are focused on Houston Street and the two blocks north of that [Bleecker and West 3rd streets],” Sweeney said.

“As a result, we would expect to get the ill effects of construction in Soho as well as hordes of students from the dorms proposed just across the street from our community…Think more beer pong bars and fewer fine dining establishments.”

– Alan Krawitz

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