NYS Assembly Member Deborah Glick Will Hold Rally Against NYU 2031 Plan Saturday, February 11th at Judson Church; Where Will Council Member Margaret Chin Fall On The Matter?

At least one elected official is speaking up and organizing around New York University’s Proposed Expansion Plan. New York State Assembly Member Deborah Glick, whose district includes Greenwich Village, will be joining with community groups, including CAAN 2031, Friends of LaGuardia Place, Greenwich Village Block Associations, and Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (links to be added), to speak out against the NYU Plan 2031. Assembly Member Glick has called for a rally this weekend on Saturday, February 11th, from 12 noon to 2 p.m. at Judson Church along Washington Square South across from the Park.

No word yet on where New York City Council Member Margaret Chin will fall. Ms. Chin was extraordinarily evasive at the community meeting in January when asked her position on the topic. Ms. Chin’s position is a potent vote in the matter — the project falls within her district; the City Council as a whole is inclined to follow the opinion of the local Council Member in their vote.

The case of 135 Bowery and its landmarking status should be background information for anyone concerned as to how this may play out.

Our Town Downtown looked at CM Chin’s decision to reverse her stand on landmarking 135 Bowery, as did WestView News in this illuminating piece on her vote, “Questions Abound in Chinatown.”

In addition, neither Margaret Chin nor her office has ever responded to this blog’s queries inquiring into the status of the construction or budget at Washington Square Park. Deborah Glick has.

From the press release from Deborah Glick’s office:

On January 3rd, 2012, the New York City Department of City Planning certified the Draft Environmental Impact Statement submitted by New York University (NYU) for the development of the ‘superblocks’ bordered by West 3rd Street, West Houston Street, Mercer Street and LaGuardia Place. The NYU Core Plan (aka NYU 2031) is now one month into a roughly 7 month Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) which involves approvals and recommendations from the Community Board, Borough President, City Planning, City Council and the Mayor.

The application being reviewed through ULURP proposes changing the current residential zoning (R7-2) to commercial (C1-7), which effectively eliminates all open space requirements, allowing significantly greater density than currently allowed, or allowed under any residential zoning. The plan as proposed would add 2.5 million square feet of University owned space (equivalent to the Empire State Building) including a new gymnasium, classroom space, a dorm and a university affiliated hotel.

It would include 4 new buildings, up to 26 stories tall and develop underground space up to 5 floors. As planned, the construction is estimated to last 18 years. Furthermore, NYU wants to buy public park strips, currently owned by the NYC Department of Transportation and convert them to University controlled land in an area where there is only 0.4 acres of parkland per 1,000 people, while the benchmark for an area well-served by parkland is 2.5 acres per 1,000 people.

In January, Manhattan Community Board 2 held 5 public hearings and will hold an additional 7 hearings in February to garner input from the Community at large. Attendance at these meetings has been extremely high, with overwhelming opposition to the plan. Community Board 2 will vote on their resolution for this proposal at the next full board meeting, February 23rd.

When Margaret Chin does finally state her position, will she then flip flop? Community pressure will be of the utmost importance. The vast expansion of New York University and reconfiguration of Greenwich Village space is not equal to 135 Bowery. While in no way diminishing the importance of that vote (and her constituents will remember), this is big time. Will she be able to stand up to the Bloomberg Administration and real estate and corporate interests? This is a critical moment.

To contact Margaret Chin: Stop by her District Office 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or write her at: Chatham Green, 165 Park Row, suite #11, New York, NY 10038; District Office Phone 212-587-3159; email: chin@council.nyc.gov

-links to be added-

NYU Buildings Cast Shadow on the Park — A Look Back at the building of NYU’s Kimmel Center

2012 - NYU Buildings cast shadows on WSP

Updated — I came across this photo on Twitter taken by Rebecca Stern who says it is the view from the NYU Stern Building but it feels more like it’s taken from the Kimmel Center. Nonetheless, this certainly shows how the NYU buildings cast a shadow on Washington Square reaching to the middle of the fountain.

I wasn’t involved when the Greenwich Village community was dealing with New York University on the building of the Kimmel Center so I researched some of the history. This 2002 document, After the Kimmel Center: How Can we Better Plan to Protect Our Neighborhoods, Parks and View Corridors?(PDF), was prepared by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. Here is an excerpt:

This report grew out of a panel discussion and forum held by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation on April 30, 2002…

The spark for the event was the capping out of New York University’s new Kimmel Student Center on Washington Square South. GVSHP and a host of local and citywide groups had opposed the plans for this building three years earlier, when NYU first announced its plans to tear down the Loeb Student, and replace it with this new, larger building.

It was clear that the new building would be too big, towering over Washington Square Park and the nearby South Village, which consists nearly exclusively of buildings of no more than 5 or 6 stories. It was also clear that the new building would cast a long shadow from the south side of the park, limiting the park’s sunlight and connection to the surrounding neighborhood.

Unfortunately, when the building reached its full height and bulk, it became clear that Kimmel
would have an even greater and unforeseen impact: the view down Fifth Avenue through Washington Square Arch, for years one of New York’s great vistas, had been nearly obliterated.

One used to be able to look down the Avenue through the arch and see downtown skyscrapers; now that is virtually impossible. In fact, from just a short distance to the north the Arch appears to be dwarfed and seemingly engulfed by the building; where arch and sky were previously dramatically framed by Lower Fifth Avenue, this view now looks more like a blind alley.

In spite of all of this, however, the proposed building, with the community facility bonus which nearly doubles the allowable floor area ratio, was considered “as of right” under existing law.

Many assumed that given the wealth of historic resources in close proximity to the proposed building (which is in fact across the street from the Greenwich Village Historic District, across the street from Washington Square Park, and less than half a block from the landmarked Judson Memorial Church) there would be some greater degree of regulation or control over such a large project. There was not.

Views, sightlines, and impacts on parks are rarely accounted for in zoning. Zoning often allows buildings of substantially greater height (sometimes with no height restrictions whatsoever) than what surrounds them, even in residential districts with a consistent built environment.

Some additional history:

From the New York Daily News, February 10, 2000: Nyu Bldg. Plan Faces Suit Group Sez Center Hurts Washington Sq. Park :

“We’re looking at a building that’s 162 feet high that’s going to cast, by their own admission, additional shadows over Washington Square Park of over 100 feet,” said Lawrence Goldberg, the other attorney. “They don’t seem to be terribly concerned about this.”

NYU’s proposed Kimmel Center for University Life would take the place of the already demolished Loeb Student Center. The 200,000-square-foot site is on LaGuardia Place.

The replacement of Loeb has been a topic of heated debate and criticism since it was announced in the fall of 1998 that the university would tear down the structure. …

Goldberg also contended that NYU broke several written commitments to the Village community to build structures that were consistent with the historic nature of the area and would not cast significant shadows over Washington Square Park.

“This lawsuit is baseless, and we expect to prevail,” said NYU spokesman John Beckman. “This building is being built out of right. The notion that this building will cast huge shadows over Washington Square Park is an exaggeration.

New York Times, March 14, 1999 12-Level, $70 Million Complex to Be Built; New Student Center for N.Y.U. (In this NY Times story, Community Board 2’s District Manager is quoted as saying that the CB doesn’t see much problem with the building after first viewing the plans.)

The Village Voice in Shadow of the Ivory Tower, NYU’S building frenzy blocks the sun and burns the community from September 7, 1999 gives a good overview and analysis:

Whereas the Loeb Center’s ground floor opened onto the street, welcoming passersby to look in and students to look out, and its second story consisted of a large terrace looking out toward the park, plans for Kimmel— with its soaring glass-and-granite facade— appear to send a different message: Keep off our lawn.

It’s possible that NYU genuinely believes this building is suitable to the neighborhood. And it’s possible, too, that the university doesn’t want to blend in but to stand out. Behold, NYU is rising from the ashes of commuter-college hell in its Windexed glass armor, waving its growing pile of applications from students with higher SAT scores, proclaiming the virtues of its steadily improving caliber of faculty.

The architect, of course, has to please his client, which in turn has to please its donor, who presumably approves of the white granite and excessive glass. The donors, Helen and Martin Kimmel, ponied up $15 million to have “meet me at Kimmel” echoing from the lips of generations of students to come.

Mrs. Kimmel is on the NYU board; Mr. Kimmel is the founder and chairman emeritus of the Kimco Realty Corporation of New Hyde Park, New York.

What grander toast to immortality for a realtor than to emblazon his name at the edge of Washington Square Park?

Likely so. And yet do most people know who Kimmel, who died in 2008, was?

I remember the Loeb Student Center and how, at the time, you could just walk in unlike the Kimmel building which is much more off-putting as well as off-limits (of course, things are different, particularly post 9/11). The previous student center, built in 1959, had a college-vibe vs. corporate vibe.

The view of Washington Square Park from the Kimmel Center is lovely and expansive for those inside but the exterior pretty much does nothing for those outside to illuminate the neighborhood or the park.

Clearly, the process of getting the building built illustrates yet again NYU higher ups historical disdain for accommodating the community within which they co-exist. There are significant shadows far reaching into the Park as well as the monumental change in view through the Arch — two things that can’t be reclaimed until the next building is erected there in, say, another thirty years? Will NYU change its ways and work with the community then? Will NYU Plan 2031 have been passed and implemented? We shall see…

Nearby In the Media …

Recent stories of interest:

* If you were looking for a primer on NYU’s proposed expansion, check out this NYU Local piece: How NYU Plans to Expand in the Village: The Struggle for the SuperBlocks

* Corruption behind the scenes of the High Line — From The New York World: High Line builder showered city officials with forbidden gifts – and pays no price

* This Crain’s NY Business title isn’t 100% accurate; the Rudin/St. Vincent’s plan still needs to be approved by the City CouncilSt. Vincent’s redevelopment gets green light

* Washington Square Hotel on Waverly Turns 110 via PR Newswire

* Remembering the Tiffany Diner on Sixth Avenue; now a Bank of America Vanishing New York

* City Council Holding Hearing Monday January 30th on Safety in NYC Parks (public participation invited) from A Walk in the Park Blog

Two Old School Diners in the Nabe – Waverly Diner Reopens, Washington Square Diner Maintains


After reading a bunch of reviews and notices yesterday about the Waverly Diner reopening, I remembered this photo I took one early morning of nearby Washington Square Diner. It is a welcoming neighborly presence on West 4th Street. Its Yelp reviews are mixed while Menu Pages more positive. A homey spot; always available to dart into as it’s open 24 hours.
Address: 150 West 4th Street (off Sixth Avenue), #212/533-9306

The Village Voice checks out the reopened Waverly Diner. It had closed for a few months to expand into the former liquor store space next door and opened its doors Wednesday morning. (The liquor store, Waverly Wines & Spirits, moved across the street on Sixth Avenue.) Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York has been covering the closed storefront over the months, wondering what would happen once it reappeared. The reviews are positive thus far for the remodeled space – upgraded and expanded while retaining its old school decor and charm. (They like the food too!)
Address: 685 Sixth Avenue at Waverly Place #212/675-3181

Top Photo: Cathryn
Bottom Photo: Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York

Photo: Village Chess Shop


Sullivan Street.

Holiday Events — Tree Arrives by the Washington Square Arch Monday, November 28th!

Last year's tree

More info on the holiday events at the Park to come but here are the basics:

Monday, November 28th Christmas tree arrives from Vermont by the Arch (at 4 a.m.!) (It’s unclear if it gets decorated that day but swing on by!)

Friday, December 2nd 8 p.m. Washington Square Music Festival Holiday Concert FREE in St. Joseph’s Church, 371 Sixth Avenue

Wednesday, December 7th 6 p.m. Tree-lighting ceremony & caroling

Saturday, Dec. 24th, 5 p.m. Christmas Eve Caroling

For Sale Around the Park: Manhattan Theatre Source Building on MacDougal and 23 Washington Square North

Manhattan Theatre Source MacDougal St

23 Washington Square North

Updated– I never got to write up Manhattan Theatre Source but I liked going in there (I never saw a show there I must confess but would have ultimately). The front space was billed as a “cafe” — although there was just bottled water and other assorted drinks in a fridge and a few tables — and they’d let you use their WiFi (whether you purchased a drink or not). There was a very nice vibe from the people there the few times I ventured in. I’d been thinking that maybe they should open a real cafe on the bottom floor (I have this little obsession with cafes and coffee shops and could actually see running one!).

So it saddens me – for more than a few reasons – to hear via Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York that the theater space is closing as of January 2012:

Said one of the board members to Broadway World, “Despite efforts to save it, we have finally reached a point where we can no longer sustain the running of our space at 177 MacDougal Street. Our deficits have grown too high, and the terrible economy has badly hurt small theater companies in NYC.”

Blogger Andrew Bellware at Pleasure for the Empire has a different take on the closure. He recently wrote on his blog, “The present Board is actually and actively destroying the theater. And they’re doing it willfully–not just from neglect… The theater is not going bankrupt… It’s just closing because this Board lacks the imagination, the will, and the backbone one needs to keep a small business running.”

I could see that being true. I think this required a bit of ingenuity – even sending out a plea announcing they might have to close would seem worth a try to garner support and ideas.

Manhattan Theatre Source describes itself as follows: “manhattantheatresource is a not-for-profit arts service organization with a groundbreaking purpose: to organize and link the disparate communities within New York’s vital off-off-Broadway movement, and to provide a ‘one-stop shop’ resource center for independent theatre artists and audiences across the nation.”

Bellware is right (as he also states) that, despite the group vowing to continue on, trying to run shows and festivals without a space is not the same. We see all the time that having a physical space makes a difference particularly in real estate-obsessed New York City (which is why it makes me a little nervous and curious wondering what will arrive there next).

The theater organization is at 177 MacDougal Street but I guess they owned 175-177 and 179 MacDougal because they are all for sale for $11,950,000.  ****

23 Washington Square North

Also for sale around the corner and right across from the Park: one of the few properties around Washington Square not owned by NYU!

Since the summer, 23 Washington Square North has featured a “for sale” sign but no takers yet although the price has been reduced from $25 Million to $19.5 Million!

At Leslie J. Garfield Real Estate, the property is still listed at $22 Million although Property Shark reports that it is now $19.5 Million.

There are six (or seven) “units” in the building and it is approximately 8500 square feet. Garfield’s site says: “This home hasn’t been available for sale for half a century.”

On Property Shark, it lists the “current owner” as AJ Clarke at 1881 Broadway which is a real estate/management company (which garnered terrible reviews via Google). (Perhaps they are managing the rentals in the building? Garfield states the longest running lease left ends September 2012.)

As so much around the park is owned by NYU, I’d imagine if the university was interested in this, they would have jumped for it by now. (Probably a little steep for them – they likely grabbed the real estate around the park when it was more “reasonable.”)

The first asking price was $25 Million when first listed on June 14th of this year. Was reduced to $22 Million and now $19.5 Million. What do you think? Worth it? I wonder how much lower the price will go.

The building was built in the 1830’s.

Squirrel Visits Next Door Wash Sq North

Update, A bit more info: Okay, I just read a bit more on Pleasure for the Empire blog and came to this post on “How to Take over 177 MacDougal Street” which revealed that AJ Clarke is landlord for 177 MacDougal – in addition to either owning or managing 23 Washington Square North! (What else does AJ Clarke own around the Square and are they selling?) How odd. I think that post was written before it was announced that the MacDougal buildings were being sold. So… AJ Clarke decided to sell the buildings once Manhattan Theatre Source decided they were leaving? Perhaps?

Photo, Manhattan Theatre Source: Wikipedia
All others: Cathryn

Greenwich Village On Halloween Night – Policing Run Amok? Washington Square Park Closed; Access to Parade Limited; Streets Dangerously Barricaded

Washington Square Park Gated and Locked Halloween 2011

Police Barricading the Arch Around 6 p.m.

Joe Mangrum Halloween Sand Painting before Park shut down

Empty Pathways Washington Sq Park

Eastern Entrance to Park Closed

NYPD shutting South entrance to Park

Lonely Arch

Updated — So… the famous Greenwich Village Halloween Parade occurred last night – hard to miss as it’s an institution at this point, no longer on the fringe but part of the mainstream, and now in its 39th year.

Of course, one of the best places to get the true Greenwich Village flavor before, during and after the parade would be … the famous Village park that resides a mere block away. And yet… Washington Square Park – the entire public space – was gated, cleared out, locked, and closed as of 6:30 p.m. yesterday. This is only in more recent years under the Bloomberg Administration*. Not even Mayor Rudy Giuliani closed the Park for Halloween. The Bloomberg Administration is the first to do so, as part of its ongoing encroachment on the accessibility and use of public space.

As I left shortly after the park was closed off and walked around the perimeter, a young man asked a police officer inside, “Is the park closed?” She responded, “Yes, temporarily.” He asked, “‘Til when?” She said, “I don’t know.” She paused. “Until they tell us.”

Venturing up to Sixth Avenue, I found a spot with a friend along the parade route between West 8th and Waverly on the eastern side. We decided to seek out a spot with better sight lines thinking heading north might be better.

As we ventured a few steps north, we could not get very far. 8th Street was closed off and barricaded – you could not cross it but you also could not turn east onto it except via a narrow, barricaded passageway along the sidewalk right up against Barnes & Noble. There was a packed crowd there all trying to get somewhere with little space to navigate within. The crush of the crowd – fortunately very good-natured but growing restless and angry at being caged in – was intense. Despite having created this dangerous situation where the teeming crowd was all forced into this small space via excessive barricading, there were no police to be seen at that location.

A man standing against the wall at Barnes & Noble said if we could get 1/4 of the way down the block, the barricading ended and we could walk freely. That is exactly what happened. Except, next, they started blocking off all of 8th Street. I said to a police officer, “Why are you closing the street? This is crazy.” He shrugged, “Do I look like I’m in charge here?”

We then got to Fifth Avenue where the overflow crowds from this untenable scenario had all headed. Every block between 5th and 6th Avenues was closed off and we were all directed to 14th Street. Except when we got to 14th Street, that too was closed off, and, over a bullhorn, a police officer announced, “Attention: Access to the Parade Route is Closed. You’re Late. The Parade Is Over.” (It wasn’t.) We then ventured to 17th (or 18th?) 19th Street and were finally able to head west to 6th Avenue except the parade ended a block further south so nothing was visible.

Now, this might sound like NYPD crowd control – as in a way to make things “ordered” – but it was not. It is creating a potentially pernicious situation. I kept saying, “This isn’t safe.” My friend shook his head and said to me, “This isn’t about safety. It’s about their control. The higher ups use these parades to practice their logistical command.” Then, it seems to me that it’s control at the expense of safety. We are just lucky there wasn’t an incident of some kind because their “system” of barricades and blocked off streets is not set up to accommodate it. Someone I know who was there agreed, stating: “I felt the same way. They trapped people in.”

People are cooperative and yet the city does everything to assume the worst of everyone and in the process makes the parade, while still fun and with great energy, a negative and potentially harmful experience – because of the City’s actions.

The media are given up close access, as are the politicians, so no one is reporting on this. It’s possible even the event organizers are not aware of the extent to which the NYPD is harming their parade and the experience of it. If I had stayed in my relatively cozy spot on Sixth Avenue off Waverly, I might not have realized the scope of this NYPD insanity.

There needs to be a hard look at how this parade, a Village tradition, is now being managed by the Bloomberg Administration and the NYPD.

As far as the park being closed, people ought to have access to this public space. If it’s public safety that the city is worried about, stop blocking off virtually every single street along the route with barricades and sending people on elaborate ruses and corralling them into narrow passageways. People want to have fun and be playful on Halloween – assuming the worst of them is just so wrong and so Bloomberg.

Bottom line: Washington Square Park should be open on Halloween night.

*Someone called the Bloomberg Administration “the control freak administration” in a comment at the Villager piece on no musical performances near the park’s fountain, benches. Couldn’t agree more.

Village Children’s Halloween Parade Marches Around Washington Square Today

The 21st Annual Greenwich Village Children’s Halloween Parade precedes the big one which starts at 7 p.m.! and winds its way around Washington Square Park this afternoon. Children and families gather at 3 p.m. at the Arch. Hosted by Community Board 2 and N.Y.U., the parade starts marching at 3:30 p.m. It will make its way to LaGuardia Place between Washington Square South and West 3rd Street where there will be candy, rides, face painting, music and other entertainment. This goes until 6 p.m.

Occupy Washington Square — Welcome!

Live Feed Projected Onto the Arch

Updated 2:15 p.m. — All this blogger can say is “It’s about time!” Washington Square Park has been feeling a bit dead in terms of activism and protest and just overall spirit since Phase I of the Bloomberg Administration’s dramatic redesign, the Fountain Plaza, opened in May of 2009. It is, uh, refreshing to find people using it for this purpose, for the ‘greater good,’ and a way for all of us, who see the opportunity for a much different world and ways of being — certainly markedly distinct from the one offered here in NYC under Mayor Michael Bloomberg — to join in.

The Arch was again barricaded last night — a police officer told me last week, when I asked “Does the Arch need defending?,” that this was so, in a large crowd, people didn’t get “smushed” — although, a live feed was projected onto it. The fountain was not barricaded and people met within it.

What is projected on the Arch says — “Discussing a proposal to hold GA at wash sq park every day of the week. #OWS” It was voted on to hold a meeting at Washington Square every day of this week. I was told 5:30 p.m. and that this will be in addition to the GA at Zuccotti Park.

Yes, I know the Parks Department has rules about not staying in the Park after midnight – but we as people in this city are so used to honoring and obeying rules at this point; we are so used to having cameras everywhere and presenting ID everywhere we go – it wasn’t so long ago that we weren’t all so used to being so rigid and monitored.

This administration has gotten away with so much – Bloomberg’s coddling and wooing of developers, corporations, media, business improvement districts, and the Mayor’s affluent friends while paying off non-profits and arts organizations essentially buying their silence tipped the scale further in favor of the 1% in NYC. The rest of us have not had the space to fight back. But now we do. Third term blues? Couldn’t happen to a more deserving target.

Keep it coming, Occupy Washington Square!

Post-Meeting in the Fountain with the Arch

Today marks one month of Occupy Wall Street at Liberty Plaza/Zuccotti Park and the start of events and protests that have transpired since.

Photos: Cathryn