It has not been a good few weeks for East Village residents and preservationists. First, there was the demolition of the landmarked façade on the old P.S. 64 school building on East 9th Street, which started July 25. Then, just two days later, work crews began tearing down the 158-year-old St. Brigid’s Church, located on Avenue B and East 8th Street. Now, East Villagers have discovered more bad news: Not only is New York University moving forward with its controversial plan to build a 26-story dorm on East 12th Street, but it’s already gearing up for construction.
“We’re outraged,” exclaimed Andrew Berman, of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, as he stood in front of the site of the former St. Ann’s Church, where workers are now digging a foundation for the proposed dorm. On Wednesday, he and dozens of Villagers gathered outside the lot, erecting two easels with drawings of the hulking, 260-foot-tall structure copied from records recently filed with the city’s Buildings Department. Protesters wiped beads of sweat from their faces as they waved signs-“Save the Village from the Shadow of the Mega Dorm” and “NYU Lied”-and chanted “No NYU Mega Dorm!”
Folks here were particularly pissed about what Berman described as the “bad faith that NYU has displayed” in handling this project. When he and other critics had found out about the proposal last November, university officials reached out to them. They listened to complaints about the building’s height and size. They offered to work on changes. Now, months later, critics have come to find out that the university filed its plans without altering anything. In fact, Berman said, the dorm will now be taller than expected. Even worse for opponents is that fact that the university and its developer, Hudson Companies, have received all necessary building permits, thus accelerating the timeline.
“NYU has been and continues to be a bad neighbor,” said City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, who represents the East Village and who joined the protest. For months, she said, the university has strung along the community with promises to listen to residents, only to do what it’s wanted in the end. She called out, “Shame on NYU!”
“Shame on You, NYU!” the crowd responded, provoking yet another round of chants. Some protesters booed. Some hissed. One protester shouted, “NYU, Stop Super-sizing our neighborhood!”
State Senator Tom Duane also made an appearance, invoking the larger fight with NYU over its unrelenting expansion into Greenwich Village. “No one should ever wonder why we distrust NYU. NYU has proven itself over and over again as an unreliable partner for us to deal with, to negotiate with, and to live with,” the senator said, his voice rising, his face reddening. He added, “We are determined to win this battle and we are going to beat back the NYU attack!”
For all their outrage, protesters acknowledged that they have little leg to stand on, now that the university has its permits. All they can do is to keep up the fight. “Public pressure is the only way to stop the dorm from becoming reality at this point,” said Elizabeth Langwith, who lives next door to the site. It’ll be a tough haul, she acknowledged. But no one is willing to give up. After all, she said, this soon-to-rise structure will tower over not just her 10-story co-op, but also the five-story townhouses across the way.
“Look at these buildings,” Langwith said, motioning to those old brownstones. “This will totally change the whole shape of the Village.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 2, 2006