Additional Meetings on New York University’s Immense Expansion Plans ‘Til 2031 This Month

No more purple flags please...

If you’re looking for some background on where else New York University could possibly plant its purple flags south of Washington Square, visit the plethora of WSP Blog posts on NYU here.

Support is needed right now to stop this behemoth and its immense plans which have virtually no community support but which clearly have the support of the Bloomberg Administration. There are additional meetings hosted by Community Board 2 this month and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and local community groups are asking people to come out in force. From GVSHP:

  • Thursday, Feb. 16 at 6:30 pm – CB2 NYU Working Group/ Architectural Presentation of NYU Plan – at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 151-155 Sullivan Street (below Houston Street), lower hall.
  • Monday, Feb. 20 at 6:30 pm – CB2 NYU Working Group – at Our Lady of Pompei Church, Bleecker and Carmine Streets (enter on Bleecker), basement hall. The NYU Working Group will decide upon its proposed language;
  • Thursday, Feb. 23 St. Anthony of Padua Church, 151-155 Sullivan Street (below Houston Street).  Community Board #2 Public Hearing and Final Vote on NYU Expansion Plan.
    5 pm – Join GVSHP, community groups, and NYU faculty and students opposed to the expansion plan for a press conference and rally to call upon the Community Board and City officials to REJECT the NYU plan. 6pm to 6:30 pm – Sign up to testify AGAINST the NYU plan, and urge Community Board #2 and elected officials to vote it down.

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

NYU And Washington Square “Core” Area Expansion

Continued… Some refreshers on NYU’s Expansion Plan 2031 — Recycled Entry * Originally Published March 11, 2011

From Crain’s NY Business, March 4th, NYU Wants to Polish Its Silver Towers:

New York University is preparing to present landscaping plans for the landmarked Silver Towers block in Greenwich Village to Community Board 2 on Monday [3/7]. The improvements are part of the school’s ambitious 2031 expansion plans. The school officially filed the plans with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on Thursday [3/3].  …

NYU’s plans to add 6 million square feet of space over the course of the next 25 years, half of which will be in Greenwich Village and areas surrounding Washington Square Park, has generated criticism from the Greenwich Village community, who believe that the school is altering the character of the neighborhood.

NYU on Washington Square (the area it considers its “core”) from its 2031 Plan website:

At its heart, NYU 2031 recognizes the primacy of the University’s central location at Washington Square. It’s home there is fundamental to NYU’s identity and mission.

(I couldn’t help but notice this really simple grammatical error in the University’s second sentence.)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg from NYU site:

It’s very hard to differentiate where New York University stops and New York City starts.

Well, that’s certainly true. No wonder NYU President John Sexton was so quick to advocate for Bloomberg’s third term.

March 11, 2011
___________________________________________________________

Previous WSP Blog Post: NYU’s “Marketing of Washington Square” Equals $$

Photo: Buck Ennis

NYU Proposed Expansion Plan 2031 — Is the Fix ‘In’ With the Bloomberg Administration?

I’m posting previous WSP Blog entries as refreshers on NYU and President John Sexton’s “vision” for the University’s Expansion Plan 2031. It’s a very critical time right now.

It raises the question — is the ‘fix’ in with the Bloomberg Administration? Given this Admin’s history over the last seemingly gazillion years (will his term ever end?), that would not be much of a surprise.

If so, how to stop it?

If her statements at the Community Meeting on NYU Plan 2031 earlier this month were any indication, Council Member Margaret Chin likely does not have the strength to stand up to Bloomberg and Council Member Quinn who will put pressure on her to go along with it.

More at WSP Blog on NYU here.

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

WSP Performance Crackdown; NYU Expansion on CB2 Parks Committee Agenda Tonight, Thurs. Jan. 12th

Updated

The WSP performance crackdown is on the agenda at tonight’s Community Board 2 Parks Committee meeting, 6:30 p.m. Our Lady of Pompeii Church, 25 Carmine Street, Father Demo Hall (enter on Bleecker) [venue has been changed from what was previously announced].

The addressing of the controversial new rules (on hold temporarily) is now scheduled for an “executive session.” Previously announced as an opportunity for public comment; it was stated that this topic was being moved to February’s meeting in order “to allow more time for public comment.”

Now, the CB2 website states, that, during the closed session, the committee “will consider a resolution reiterating a prior position opposing a Parks Department rule regarding public expression in parks and including its recent use to restrict un-amplified performances in Washington Square.”

Update from CB2 Chair Brad Hoylman: It was decided that there had been “enough public comment” and that “It’s not fair to ask people to come out again (and again, and…).” He is hoping that a resolution will be drafted by the committee.

The main part of the meeting which is open for public comment focuses on the “NYU 2031 Campus Expansion Plan.” I’d be curious to see how (Parks Committee Chair) Tobi Bergman handles this group since he dodges a bit on issues related to WSP (and gets away with it).

This is certain to recruit a large crowd. There will be a presentation of the plan and discussion of how NYU’s plans affect “open space and related issues” as well as NYC Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). It is noted that “Public input at this hearing will inform the Community Board 2 recommendation.

Community Meeting on NYU Plan 2031 Tonight Wednesday, Jan. 4th, 6:30 p.m.

NYU’s 2031 plan certainly impacts the area around Washington Square Park.

From the flyer for tonight’s town hall meeting sponsored by Community Board 2, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Community Action Alliance on NYU 2031, and a number of local Greenwich Village Block Associations:

NYU is seeking City approvals to add 2.5 million square feet of space – the equivalent of the Empire State Building! – to the blocks south of Washington Square Park!

One aspect I’ll be reporting more on in the future is the Sasaki Garden at Washington Square Village. For more information, see this recent post at the Local Ecologist Blog: Endangered Sasaki Garden.

A meeting addressing the overall plan will be held tonight, Wednesday, January 4th, at 6:30 pm at the AIA – Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place between Bleecker and W. 3rd St..

From the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation:

With the new year upon us, it’s time to gear up for the seven-month public hearing and approval process for NYU’s massive and precedent-setting twenty-year expansion plan (see images and more info HERE).  Either we stop the plan now, or we live with it and its consequences forever.

To get organized and informed, and to start letting decision-makers know you want them to vote AGAINST the plan, come to the Town Hall meeting this Wednesday at 6:30 pm at the AIA, 536 LaGuardia Place (Bleecker/W. 3rd St.).  More than fifty community groups from the Village, East Village, SoHo, Chelsea, and Union Square are co-sponsoring the meeting.  Please post and circulate the flyer HERE.

Times and locations have now been set for the following Community Board #2 public hearings on the NYU plan (CB 2 will vote on the plan in February based upon January’s public hearings – this is the first official step in the public review and approval process).

  • Monday, January 9th, 6:00 pm, CB 2 Zoning Committee, AIA 536 LaGuardia Place (Bleecker/W. 3rd).  NYU will present its plans; the Zoning Committee will make recommendations to CB 2 regarding the zoning changes NYU is seeking to allow its plan to move ahead.  A STRONG TURNOUT AT THIS MEETING IS CRITICAL!  (Note: NYU is the second item on the agenda for this meeting.)
  • Thursday, January 12th, 6:30 pm, CB 2 Parks Committee, NYU Silver Bldg., 32 Waverly Pl. (Wash. Sq. E.), rm. 713.  The Parks Committee will review NYU’s proposals to take over and build upon open space and green space and make recommendations to the CB 2.  A STRONG TURNOUT AT THIS MEETING IS CRITICAL!
  • There will also be hearings on the traffic impacts of NYU’s plan on Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 6:30 pm at the NYU Silver Bldg., 32 Waverly Pl. (Wash. Sq. E.), rm. 520, on its impact upon schools and social services on Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 6:30 pm at Judson Church Meeting room, 55 Wash. Sq. So. (Thompson St.) (note: NYU is the second item on the agenda at this meeting)
  • and on its environmental impacts on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 6:30 pm at the Tony Dapolito Rec. Ctr., 1 Clarkson St. (Carmine/7th Av. So.).

Hawks Set up Nest around the Park — “Violet & Bobby” VideoCam Watch

In late January, I wrote about the hawks looking to set up a nest near the Park. Well, they’ve found a location! Right outside NYU President John Sexton’s office. NYU has set up a videocam to watch the hawks and the hatching process.

The New York Times has the story, Watching Bobby and Violet:

Its stars are Violet (named for one of the university’s colors) and her mate, Bobby (named for Bobst Library, atop which Dr. Sexton’s office sits). And in a few weeks, if all goes well, their hatchlings.

You can see live Video Cam here. It’s awfully cute to watch even when nothing seemingly is happening.

* Previous WSP Blog Post: Washington Square Hawks Attempt New Nest in Nabe

Photo: Christopher James/NYU