Some highlights of what NYU plans to do in the next 21 years, a few of which were made public for the first time last night:
* Add six million square feet to NYU’s New York City campuses
* Create satellite campuses in Downtown Brooklyn (with Polytechnic Institute) and on Governor’s Island
* Add 1.5 million – 2 million square feet to NYU’s “core,” in the superblocks south of Washington Square Park, on land mostly owned by NYU. This will entail adding two enormous buildings between the towers of Washington Square Village, tearing down Coles gym and replacing it with a multi-tower building, excavating land for underground facilities, and adding a 36 story building that hill house residences and a University Hotel.
* Another 1.5 million square feet could be added to the area adjacent to NYU’s Washington Square campus
* In response to a question, NYU stated that as a tax-exempt organization, it largely pays no real estate tax on any of its buildings (except for those that have commercial retail space in them).
* The Nursing School will move out of the Village to be near the NYU Medical Center
* NYU will construct space for a New York City public school
Members of CB2 and the community regularly interrupted NYU’s presentation, with heckles, hisses and boos. (“Go to Brooklyn!”)
NYU’s response was that it’s better to sensibly plan than to lurch chaotically every time they have a need for growth. One of the more surprising moments in the evening was when NYU’s spokeswoman Alicia Hurley admitted that the university’s 26 story 12th Street dorm, which was hastily built behind the façade of St. Ann’s Church several years ago, was a bad idea and poorly planned. Hurley seemed to imply that if NYU had listened more carefully to the community, they wouldn’t have built on that site.
Hurley also pointed out that NYU was adding half of its new space outside of the Village, but folks in the hall didn’t seem to be swayed. One speaker pointed out that half is still three million square feet, the equivalent of adding four to five Jacob Javits centers to the Village. Another who had served on Borough President Scott Stringer’s task force on NYU’s expansion said that adding six million square feet to the Village was never on the table, so the reduction to a mere three is somewhat disingenuous.
There was often a very parochial quality to the complaints. Many people said NYU should not be attempting to achieve the square footage per student of suburban campuses, and should not try to “shoehorn” their expansion into “the fragile eco-system of Greenwich Village.” But while saying NYU students and faculty should adjust to the urban life of New York City as it is, many of the same people made the argument that the typically suburban
needs they desire for their own families or children – playgrounds, good schools, no overcrowding, open spaces – should be met without them having to move to Montclair.
Most of the protesters at the meeting were of a certain age, and a few people did voice the
grim reality of what NYU’s 21 year planned means for them. At one point, when Hurley’s face looked it was going to crack after smiling for hours as people people screamed at her, an elderly protester yelled that the expansion would happen “over our dead bodies.” Later, a couple others chimed in that she was probably right: by 2031, many, if not most, of the people in the room complaining will no longer be residents of Greenwich Village, or of this earth.