As the 2013 mayoral elections near, the expected candidates are looking to build platforms through the work in their current jobs. For Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn — who will likely go up against each other in the race to replace Mayor Mike Bloomberg — the controversial expansion of New York University in the Village is one opportunity to influence a development issue that will impact the city for decades and beyond.
But Quinn’s not quite ready to talk about it yet.
This week, Scott Stringer, standing beside NYU President John Sexton, announced his support of a scaled-back version of NYU’s two-decade expansion in Greenwich Village, pushing the project one step forward in the lengthy review process mandated by the city.
The rezoning project, which is part of NYU’s 2031 plan to expand in the neighborhood and build more space for housing and academic use, must now go before the City Planing Commission and the City Council.
Stringer, who has played a role in negotiating two other campus expansions in the city, is supporting a downsized plan that reduces the project’s density by 19-percent. The borough president, who makes advisory recommendations, got the university to trim the size of the expansion by 370,000 square feet, secure commitments for K-8 space and job-creation, and also eliminate a temporary gym and a section of proposed dormitories.
The controversial expansion is one that requires elected officials to navigate competing interests of education, economic development, and higher learning.
Perhaps exhausted of talking about navigating competing interests, Quinn, after an event about the Titanic, declined to say anything specific about the expansion yesterday (iIn all fairness, the proposal hasn’t reached her and the City Council yet, though the delicate balancing act she will have to face once it gets to her is likely on her radar).
After the Voice asked her if she planned on supporting the scaled-back version Stringer proposed, she said: “I congratulate the borough president on the concessions that he got, the concessions that he achieved. The plan now makes its way to the City Council, which is the part of the process obviously that I am most involved with, and I’m going to be working with my colleague Council member [Margaret] Chin, whose district it is in.”
She added, “Typically, I do not take a public position until the end of the process at the City Council.”
After Quinn’s comments, the Voice briefly caught up with Councilwoman Margaret Chin to get her take on the latest developments in the expansion plan, which, before it reached Stringer, was shot down by the local Community Board.
“This has taken up a lot of my time!” Chin said, as one of her staffer’s chimed in that it’s a “number one priority.”
“I care. I care so much,” Chin said, who also attended the Titanic Centennial event. “I have a land use director looking at this principally. That’s his main responsibility.”
“It’s a good start. The borough president has done a lot of work on this,” she said, citing his five-year task force on the matter. “But there’s still a lot of issues that we want to address and I think that we will continue to engage NYU with that while it’s in City Planning,” she said, noting that she is particularly interested in the fate of a temporary gym and whether it could be moved somewhere else where it could benefit another community.
In response to criticisms that the reductions Stringer proposed don’t do nearly enough to limit the negative impact on the neighborhood, Chin said. “We are going to be looking at exactly what the needs are — like do we really need X, Y, and Z?”
She continued, “Now, it’s finding the balance. How do we do that? How do we allow an institution to grow — at the same time preserve the character of the neighborhood, the green space, to make sure it’s still a livable neighborhood?”