In face of jeers from Greenwich Village residents, the City Council approved New York University’s 2031 expansion plan by a 44-1 vote this afternoon.
The nearly 20-year construction project, which will not begin until 2014, will expand the university’s campus to include additional academic facilities, housing for incoming freshman and faculty, create additional retail locations and has dedicated space for a public school.
The most contentious part of the expansion plan focused on the area known as the “superblock”, which will be comprised of four new buildings bounded by West 3rd, Mercer, W Houston, and LaGuardia Place. Residents fear that it will not fit in with the rest of the neighborhood, take away community space, and attract too many restaurants and bars.
Moments before the Council voted on the expansion, Greenwich Village residents became angry and started to chant “Chin and Quinn did us in!”.
The entire balcony, filled with residents, was escorted out of the Council chambers before the vote could take place.
Following the disruption, Quinn said. “This expansion plan will be an even greater force to bring people to New York to study.”
“When this is all said in done in 2031, people will look back and say Margaret Chin did a great job of balancing the demands of Village residents while acknowledging NYU’s need to expand.”
Council member Charles Barron was the only dissenting voice in Council chambers.
“You don’t put people out because they are frustrated about what you’re doing to their neighborhood where you don’t have to live,” said Barron, who urged Council members to vote against the expansion.
Several Council members, including Land Use chair Leroy Conrie, cited the Village’s liveliness in support of the modified expansion plan.
“The Village is an active area, perhaps more so than anywhere else in the city,” Conrie said. “This is not the kind of place where people are going to bed at 8 p.m.”
The battle over the university’s expansion has spanned over five years, with Greenwich Village residents and NYU facing off in the media and at public hearings. Both Village residents and City Council members have openly talked about their skepticism towards the large university, with many citing the problems relating to the expansion of another private university, Columbia, as foreshadowing conflicts in the area.
After last month’s hearing, where City Council members told NYU their existing plan was out of scale and did not appropriately blend with the existing neighborhood, the university made modifications and last week offered up a new plan for the council to vote on.
The new expansion plan, which contains a 27 percent reduction in building height and density, contains three main revisions:
1) Reduction in building density– NYU scaled down the density of several of its proposed buildings by 25 percent. The proposed “Zipper Building,”which is to replace the current Coles Sports Center, has been reduced by 70,000 square feet.
2) Increase in open space — this was a major source of contention for council members at the previous hearing. Under the new plan, NYU will create several more open spaces for public use and fund upkeep for existing spaces such as the Sasaki garden and parkland. The university also pledged to create a $150,000 endowment for grounds maintenance in addition to their upkeep costs.
3) Community consultation on NYU’s open space — NYU has pledged to create two committees that will serve to oversee the university’s efforts towards making open space available to the general public and will also create a liason between the university and the community on construction progress. Each committee will be comprised of five members, chosen by the city council and with one NYU representative.
Margaret Chin, who represents the area, supported the new plan and encouraged her fellow Council members and Greenwich Village residents to get on board.
“Today I’ve heard NYU commit to major modification,” Chin said at last week’s hearing. “To be honest, no one got everything they wanted but I hope this new plan will allow
NYU to grow at a modest pace and keep the residents happy.”
Despite these changes and Chin’s support, Greenwich Village residents claimed NYU’s modifications were hardly compromises and drafted a plan of their own for the university’s expansion. In the days leading up to the final vote, expansion opponents organized the group StandUp4NYC along with a video calling out Speaker Christine Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg, dubbed by them as “Mike the Mogul.”
StandUp4NYC also started an online petition asking Speaker Quinn to demand NYU make the expansion’s financing details public. At press time the petition had collected 154 signatures.