On NYU’s Proposed Continued Expansion Throughout the Village

* Series On NYU’s Proposed Expansion Plan 2031 * 

Recycled Entry * Originally Published March 26, 2010 (edited version)

With news of N.Y.U.’s proposed plan to expand their New York City campus by 40%, this photo shows us what the view through the Arch would be like if there was no building at 58 Washington Square South (which NYU acquired and plans to make 6-7 stories – it was previously two – next to Kimmel Center) – right now, you can actually see through to West 3rd Street!

Speaking to the New York Times about the proposed expansion, New York University President John Sexton (reached in Qatar, near N.Y.U.’s new Abu Dhabi campus) responds as if he is new to the scene. He states, “It’s clear that N.Y.U. had a history of moving forward without listening.”

Just how long has John Sexton been President of N.Y.U.? Since 2001. Though a lot happened in previous years, still, a lot of that “moving forward without listening” occurred on his watch.

The paper informs us:

Between 1991 and 2001, the number of students living in N.Y.U. housing tripled to 12,000, from 4,000, as the university raised its national profile. (In the early ’90s, 50 percent of its students came from the metropolitan area; now that figure has declined to 10 to 15 percent.) By 2031, N.Y.U. expects its total student body to grow to 46,500 students, up from the current 41,000.

Further, The Times reports: “In its Washington Square neighborhood, the university will be creating the equivalent in square footage of a little more than the total floor area of the Empire State Building.”

Mr. Sexton, who alarmed me when I heard his perplexing speech in support of Mayor Bloomberg’s quest to overturn voted-in term limits (as I wrote at the time: “More Bloomberg. More NYU.”), stated: “For New York to be a great city, we need N.Y.U. to be a great university.”

Actually, I’m sure many would argue in order for New York to be a “great city,” we need a bit less N.Y.U., at least less N.Y.U., in the fashion it currently operates.

Fewer N.Y.U. flags planted amidst every inch of our communities and neighborhoods. And historic spaces like the Edgar Allen Poe House and Provincetown Playhouse as well as cultural spots which added to the vibrancy of the neighborhood like The Bottom Line preserved – not demolished – by the overreaching arm of N.Y.U. expansion.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, stated: “N.Y.U. seems to have worked on their P.R. machine quite a bit, but the reality of what they’re doing — which is taking over more and more of the neighborhood — doesn’t seem like it’s changed very much. They’ve given everybody the opportunity to say what they think and then they’ve largely ignored that feedback.

March 26, 2010 (edited)

Previous WSP Blog Posts:

* Isn’t there anyone who can outbid or outmaneuver NYU? 58 Washington Sq South Goes to the Dark Side

* NYU: “Thanks for your patience”; the University Continues Its Unregulated Building, Ignoring Community Agreements on Provincetown Playhouse

Photos: Cathryn

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In the Media

Construction to Align Fountain with Arch 2008

Just when you thought everyone in the mainstream media had forgotten about the Bloomberg Administration’s decision to align the Washington Square Fountain with Fifth Avenue and the Arch as part of its redesign plan (the fountain had stood regally in its original location for 137 YEARS), I came across this piece from writer Michael Gross at Crain’s NY Business. (This was a couple of weeks ago but still worth noting.)

New York Becoming Wisconsin:

The mayor’s domestication of Manhattan has gone far enough. It’s there in the nanny-state bans on foods, sodas and ciggies; the redesign of nasty, grotty, thrill-a-minute Times Square into a holding pen for clueless tourists; the move of the Washington Square fountain 22 feet to the east so it aligns with the arch and Fifth Avenue; even the routing of quirky neighborhood retailers and their replacement by Duane Reades, bank branches and chain stores—a perhaps unintended but definitely unpleasant side-effect of the mayor’s economic miracle. I recently called Time Warner Center the Short Hills Mall and someone said, “Don’t insult Short Hills like that.” Much as I like the visual vibrancy of the new Times Square, shut your eyes and listen to the voices around you, and you could be in Green Bay.

Enough with domestication. New Yorkers don’t want to be domesticated. We don’t want safe. We sometimes like scary. We don’t even always want clean. We’re not afraid of what’s around the corner; we rush toward it.

More at Crain’s.

For some history, see previous WSP Blog Post: Actually, Mr. Vellonakis, the Washington Square Park Fountain IS already aligned

Seen in the Village: More Jane Jacobs Less Marc Jacobs


In 2009, graphic designer Mike Joyce created these postcards, “More Jane Jacobs, Less Marc Jacobs,” and proceeded to spread the word about them. He provided them to anyone who requested them and they were placed in coffee shops and other locales around town. The postcards are still visible as seen here last month at West Village spot Soy Cafe.

Jeremiah at Vanishing New York interviewed Joyce in October 2009. His comments are still relevant a year and a half later:

One, it is absolutely not meant to be a personal statement against Marc Jacobs. I actually like some of the store’s window displays and think he and his team are really talented designers. And two, don’t be so literal! It’s a play on words to reflect the Village being taken over by franchises and chains of all kinds–not just the six Marc Jacobs stores. Oh, that would be my third point, there is of course a place for Marc Jacobs in the Village but six stores on two blocks?! Come on, the person that argues for that has no individuality.

You can read the rest of the VNY interview here. At the same time, Joyce also commented: “Probably the biggest question I am asked is ‘Who’s Jane Jacobs?‘”

For the answer to that, see previous WSP Blog posts:

* Last Call, Bohemia. Or, as Jane Jacobs wrote, the benefits of the “strange”

* Jane Jacobs and Washington Square

Photo: Park Slope Lens

Update on “The Vanishing City”; Documentary Screens Tonite, Saturday, September 25th at Williamsburg Film Festival

Tonight, Saturday, September 25th, catch the completed version of documentary “The Vanishing City” at the Williamsburg International Film Festival, aka WilliFest, at 10 p.m. at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. The Festival began Thursday, September 23rd and ends tomorrow, Sunday September 26th.

You can’t miss the dramatic changes in our New York City neighborhoods that have transpired at an escalated pace during the Bloomberg years, particularly throughout Manhattan but creeping into the other boroughs. The film attempts to answer “why?

The Daily News featured an excellent write-up on the film’s creators, filmmakers Jen Senko and Fiore DeRosa, yesterday:

“The more questions we asked, the film became more of journa-listic expose, a detective story,” says Senko.

“Essentially, we found that the city was using taxpayers’ money to more and more finance luxury housing, pushing out people and businesses that had been there for generations. These developers got huge subsidies and tax breaks, while taxes on small landlords and co-ops were going up nearly 40 percent.

“The result is changing the whole culture of Manhattan, and the film took on that focus.”

To view the excellent trailer for the film, and more on why the city is vanishing so quickly, take a look at this piece from Examiner.com:

The film points out that New York, while always changing, used to change in increments. In the 90s luxury development started ramping up and by the aughts exploded, slashing and burning its way through neighborhood after neighborhood. Luxury development has become the norm and entire neighborhoods have been re-zoned to not only allow it, but to preclude any other kind of development.

“The Vanishing City” just opened the Harlem International Film Festival on Thursday 9/23 and is receiving a lot of important and much deserved attention.

For tickets for tonight, or the rest of the festival, visit here.

A View Through the Arch — On NYU’s Proposed Continued Expansion Throughout the Village & NYC

With news of N.Y.U.’s proposed plan to expand their New York City campus by 40%, this photo shows us what the view through the Arch would be like if there was no building at 58 Washington Square South (which NYU acquired and plans to make 6-7 stories – it was previously two – next to Kimmel Center) – right now, you can actually see through to West 3rd Street!

Speaking to the New York Times about the proposed expansion, New York University President John Sexton (reached in Qatar, near N.Y.U.’s new Abu Dhabi campus) responds as if he is new to the scene. He states, “It’s clear that N.Y.U. had a history of moving forward without listening.”  Just how long has John Sexton been President of N.Y.U.? Since 2001! A lot of that “moving forward without listening” occurred on his watch.

The paper informs us: “Between 1991 and 2001, the number of students living in N.Y.U. housing tripled to 12,000, from 4,000, as the university raised its national profile. (In the early ’90s, 50 percent of its students came from the metropolitan area; now that figure has declined to 10 to 15 percent.) By 2031, N.Y.U. expects its total student body to grow to 46,500 students, up from the current 41,000.”

The Times reports: “In its Washington Square neighborhood, the university will be creating the equivalent in square footage of a little more than the total floor area of the Empire State Building.”

Mr. Sexton, who alarmed me when I heard his perplexing speech in support of Mayor Bloomberg’s quest to overturn voted-in term limits (as I wrote at the time: More Bloomberg, More NYU), stated: “For New York to be a great city, we need N.Y.U. to be a great university.

Actually, I’m sure many would argue in order for New York to be a “great city,” we need less N.Y.U. Fewer N.Y.U. flags planted amidst every inch of our communities and neighborhoods. And historic spaces like the Edgar Allen Poe House and Provincetown Playhouse as well as cultural spots which added to the vibrancy of the neighborhood like The Bottom Line preserved – not demolished – by the overreaching arm of N.Y.U. expansion.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, states: “N.Y.U. seems to have worked on their P.R. machine quite a bit, but the reality of what they’re doing — which is taking over more and more of the neighborhood — doesn’t seem like it’s changed very much. They’ve given everybody the opportunity to say what they think and then they’ve largely ignored that feedback.

To learn more: Wednesday, April 14th 5:30-8 p.m. N.Y.U. will present its 2031 Expansion Plan, Kimmel Center, 10th floor, 60 Washington Square South (at LaGuardia Place)

Previous WSP Blog Posts:

* Isn’t there anyone who can outbid or outmaneuver NYU? 58 Washington Sq South Goes to the Dark Side

* NYU: “Thanks for your patience”; the University Continues Its Unregulated Building, Ignoring Community Agreements on Provincetown Playhouse

Photos: Cathryn

*** Coming Next Week: Photos of New Construction at Washington Square Park! ***

Worth Checking Out — “The Bloomberg Era” by Photo Blogger Nathan Kensinger

Chez Brigitte, West Village, For Rent

As 2009 came to a close, Photo Blogger Nathan Kensinger put together an excellent photo and comprehensive written essay summing up “The Bloomberg Era.” It is worth a look ! This links to Part I (Part II is coming!).

Note: the photos on this site are not his but he is an excellent photographer and has captured the changing face of NYC and destructive nature of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policies on the character of our city’s neighborhoods at his blog.

Kensinger writes:

The Bloomberg administration focused on transforming the city’s landscape from its very first days in office. As the NY Times wrote in 2009, “the administration’s economic development policies started with a simple concept: New York must grow to compete with other cities. Development became the means toward that end.” Bloomberg’s pro-development policies created “a historic re-envisioning of New York City, one that loosened the reins on development across the boroughs and pushed more than 100 rezoning measures through a City Council that stamped them all into law... across the city, residential construction doubled under Mr. Bloomberg, to more than 30,000 units a year from 2004 through 2008… Construction spending has also doubled since he took office, reaching a high of $32 billion in 2008.”

Donuts Coffee Shop, Park Slope, No Longer

Not only has the residential landscape changed dramatically under the Bloomberg Administration but the hyper development has led to overarching changes to the type of businesses that can afford to operate – and survive – in the city.

Kensinger’s essay continues:

With the loss of small businesses, the commercial landscape of New York re-oriented towards chain stores – with cookie-cutter exteriors – that could afford to pay exorbitant rents. By mid-decade, New York’s commercial streetscape had become dominated by redundancy. A multitude of sterile bank branches opened, while chains like Duane Reade and Starbucks placed multiple store locations within a few blocks of each other, to monopolize neighborhoods. For the first time, big-box-stores were allowed to enter the city, like Home Depot in 2004 and Ikea in 2008, further endangering small businesses. Virginie-Alvine Perrette’s award-winning documentary “Twilight Becomes Night” (2008) perfectly encapsulated the loss of small businesses in New York, stating that “large chains, public policy and high rents” were putting NYC’s “locally owned stores… on a consistent path towards extinction.”

See the entire essay here.

Photo #1: Jeremoss

Photo #2: Benzado

“Lost New York 1609-2009” Conference Friday 10/2 and Saturday 10/3 at NYU

I just learned of this conference coming up later this week:  “Lost New York 1609-2009” at NYU Friday, October 2nd and Saturday, October 3rd:

Lost New York marks the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage for the Dutch and the 200th anniversary of Washington Irving’s legendary reimagining of this New World encounter in his Knickerbocker’s History of New York. A wide array of conference participants will explore the dynamics of creativity and destruction, nostalgia and invention, that have for centuries marked efforts to “Do New York,” as Henry James advised Edith Wharton.

Apparently, the organizers, Cyrell R.K. Patell and Bryan Waterman (who also have a blog, The History of New York), were inspired by NYC bloggers.  Bryan Waterman writes there (and mentions WSP Blog, among others!):

“When Cyrus and I were narrowing the theme for the conference this coming weekend, our imaginations were led along the lines suggested by diverse a group of blogs that dealt with neighborhood scenes, New York history, and, more often than not, the link between the two. … In the case of many — though not all — New York blogs, we find a new kind of urban literature emerging, much of it focused on nostalgia for a lost city and a desire to create and preserve cultural memory.”

In that spirit, this panel looks interesting:

Saturday, October 3rd 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
BLOGGING THE APOCALYPSE: NEW MEDIA, NEW GENRES, AND THE LITERATURE OF A LOST CITY
Sukhdev Sandhu (New York University), moderator

Panelists:
Lost City
Ephemeral New York
Flaming Pablum: Vanishing Downtown
Bowery Boogie

Location: 13-19 University Place, room 102 (all panels Saturday at this location)

Full schedule for both days here. All free and open to the public. Conference sponsored by the Department of English and Humanities Initiative at New York University. Organized by Cyrus R. K. Patell and Bryan Waterman.

Last Call, Bohemia?

Greenwich Village, 1960

Will New York City recognize the importance of “Bohemia” in societies, including its own?

In a July ’08 Vanity Fair article titled “Last Call, Bohemia”, Christopher Hitchens observes how London, Paris and San Francisco — renowned for neighborhoods which foster climates of creativity and culture, havens for “the artists, exiles and misfits” — have “learned” and adopted a hands off policy towards building un-affordable, big box monstrosities in these areas.

What will it take for real-estate-obsessed New York City to do the same?

Hitchens’ focuses on these havens as places for people who “regenerate the culture.”  He targets the St. Vincents/Rudin Management “plan” to remake a large swath of the West Village for “luxury housing” and a new medical building as exactly the type development that should be stopped. He explores what it means not just the Village, but for the City at large.

Hitchens writes:

It isn’t possible to quantify the extent to which society and culture are indebted to Bohemia. In every age in every successful country, it has been important that at least a small part of the cityscape is not dominated by bankers, developers, chain stores, generic restaurants, and railway terminals.

This little quarter should instead be the preserve of—in no special order—insomniacs and restaurants and bars that never close; bibliophiles and the little stores and stalls that cater to them; alcoholics and addicts and deviants and the proprietors who understand them; aspirant painters and musicians and the modest studios that can accommodate them; ladies of easy virtue and the men who require them; misfits and poets from foreign shores and exiles from remote and cruel dictatorships. Though it should be no disadvantage to be young in such a quartier, the atmosphere should not by any means discourage the veteran.

In her 1961 classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs argued for the need for “the old” amidst “the new.”  She wrote:

To be sure, city areas with flourishing diversity sprout strange and unpredictable uses and scenes. But this is not a drawback of diversity. This is the point, or part of it. That this should happen is in keeping with one of the missions of cities.

Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, there is the homogenization factor going on in our city… certainly our bland Mayor doesn’t get that “mission” that Jacobs refers to.  And our NY City Council, led by Speaker Christine Quinn, just falls in line with her friend and benefactor, thereby eliminating any protection or preservation of the unique in our city.

The City’s redesign plans for Washington Square Park further illustrate no understanding or acknowledgment (perhaps, indeed purposefully) of the “strange” (Jacobs’ term for something worth preserving) or the unique, bohemia or diversity.  The design, by landscape designer George Vellonakis, seems to purposefully gloss over – almost sneers at – what made the Park unique.

Instead of Mayor Mike’s emphasis on protecting Wall Street, real estate interests and tourism, wouldn’t we like to live in a place where the historical buildings throughout the West and East Village that NYU has subsumed would be off limits to being altered … forever

Hitchens concludes:

Those who don’t live in such threatened districts nonetheless have a stake in this quarrel and some skin in this game, because on the day when everywhere looks like everywhere else we shall all be very much impoverished, and not only that but-more impoverishingly still-we will be unable to express or even understand or depict what we have lost.

***********************************************

*This is a revised and edited version of a post first published on June 18th, 2008.*

Photo: Ed Yourdon

Will Joe Jr.’s, Village Institution for 35 years, close Sunday?

I went in Joe Jr.’s restaurant about four months ago, inspired I think by Vanishing New York’s previous coverage of this Village institution (same location for 35 years).  It’s a real old school New York place located at Sixth Avenue and 12th Street.  I sat at a booth.  It was really comfortable.  I ordered something diner-y, like a grilled cheese and unsweetened iced tea.  They couldn’t have been nicer.  It wasn’t expensive.  Sort of a throw back to how things can be, and were, in NYC.  It’s not glitzy by any means and you’re not going to get the best gourmet meal but not everything has to be about shiny glass buildings and chi chi wine bars and Duane Reade’s on every corner and Wall Street myopia in New York City.  The ‘other’ is what makes New York complete and unique and what it’s renowned for … art and politics and community and grit and controversy and being on the f**king cutting edge … not wiping out all of its past and its future.  It’s something people like Mike Bloomberg say they understand (at least in campaign ads – where he’s all about the ‘average’ New Yorker and supporting small businesses) but so don’t.  After all, actions speak louder than words.  And it is Mike Bloomberg’s actions that are making the ‘other’ New York, places like Joe Jr’s, capsize and disappear.

Read Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York Blog piece today to hear the latest on Joe Jr.’s. It’s another story of a landlord, greed, a lost lease.  There’s a petition in the restaurant… perhaps venture by to sign it.

Note:  Joe Jr.’s did indeed close that Sunday.

NY Post Reports New Washington Square “Coalition” comprised of anonymous wealthy donors and NYU. Privatization of Park begins?

In today’s New York Post, we’re informed of a new “coalition:”  “The Coalition for a Better Washington Square Park.”  

The name and article bring up a lot of questions:  Who doesn’t want a better Washington Square Park but who decides what’s “better?”  … The people who wanted the fountain aligned and plaza leveled and trees cut down?  The people who are concerned about their real estate values?  People who have money to throw around and yet won’t reveal who they are?  

The article reveals that the new “coalition’s” goal is “beefed up security” at the Park made up of “off duty NYPD cops” to rid the park of “druggies and lowlifes.”  Yet, the individual people in the group – the ones funding it – won’t reveal who they are except for front man, neighborhood resident and sometime agitator, Gil Horowitz.  

I’ve noted a lot of police at the park since it reopened and they basically have nothing to do.  The Parks Department has explained at length to those who are concerned why it is difficult to curtail any questionable pot dealings in the park so why would NYPD “off duty” cops make the park anything but more… policed?

What we do know is that NYU is involved so an alarm bell goes off right there as to this new group’s intentions.

A step towards further privatization, perhaps?

From the article in New York Post:

Washington Square Park tokers, beware!

A group of “wealthy, high-level” Greenwich Village residents plans to hire a security force of off-duty NYPD cops to keep the refurbished bohemian playpen from returning to its bad old days as an open-air drug market, The Post has learned.

“The Coalition for a Better Washington Square Park” — which is made up of area co-op boards and NYU — says it wants to protect the great strides made there, including a multimillion-dollar face lift paid for, in part, by the Tisch family.

“There are wealthy New Yorkers that are public-minded,” said coalition founder Dr. Gil Horowitz, a longtime parkgoer and resident of lower Fifth Avenue. “We have brought together some very high-level people in order to get this done.”

Washington Sq Pk Turned Upside Down

Washington Sq Pk Turned Upside Down

And then this:

The powerbroker donors have thus far opted for anonymity.

“We just want people to respect the investments made in the park,” said Adelaide Polsinelli of the Presidents Roundtable, a coalition of Village locals.

Whose investments?  The Tisch Family? NYU?  The local Business Improvement District?

At least the story gets another viewpoint in there from lawyer Ron Kuby:

But longtime Village resident, lawyer Ron Kuby, expressed concern.

“I think the rich folk who are sponsoring this want to change the character of the park from the free-wheeling street-theater scene to something that resembles their backyard terraces,” he said.

Let’s stop this before it begins. Ideas, anyone?