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

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! ***

NYC Parks Department Drops off Washington Square Park Phase II Blueprints at Community Board 2 Meeting; More Arborcide at Washington Square Park and by NYU

Well, yes, Community Board 2’s Parks Committee met Wednesday night, February 3rd, in the Village with a list of topics to discuss. On the agenda: Design of the Washington Square Park “comfort stations,” part of Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase III which will begin later this year or early next. There was, at last, a look at the plans for WSP Phase II construction, currently underway.

The Parks Department unveiled full Washington Square Park Phase II redesign plan blueprints, the first time anyone from the community had seen these despite the fact that the work began in the Fall of 2009. Clearly, these Phase II blueprints have existed for awhile — the fact that the Parks Department just now got around to bringing them before the Community Board is particularly vexing.

At the previous December meeting (a joint meeting of CB2 Parks Committee with the Washington Square Park Task Force), the Parks Department was unprepared and attendees were told that representatives would return at February’s meeting to give the Community Board full and final details on ongoing Phase II construction and design plans for Phase III.

Instead, the Parks Department dropped off some blueprints (which were nice to finally see, of course), placed them on a table and focused on presentations related to other parks.

No information was presented about the design of the Washington Square Park comfort stations/restrooms. (You might recall that the Greenwich Village community repeatedly insisted over the last five or so years that WSP’s failing rest rooms be addressed first in their redesign plans to which the New York City Parks Department smiled and nodded their heads while ignoring this request all along the way.)

At the meeting, other village neighborhood parks got the spotlight, including Bleecker Street Playground, Petrosino Park, and Minetta Playground. I miss the presence of Community Board 2 Chair Brad Hoylman (who left his position at the beginning of this year after a 2 year term).

With Hoylman there, the spotlight shone a bit brighter on WSP – and park – issues. CB2 Parks Committee Chair Tobi Bergman, previously a Parks Department employee, is more likely to dismiss items when they might get a bit thorny, not holding the Parks Department accountable. I can’t say for certain that Hoylman, who works for Partnership for New York City (a pro-Bloomberg, pro-development entity), increased the Parks Department’s responsiveness but the process felt more open.

Arborcide by NYU and at WSP

For example: NYU devastatingly chopped down 6 trees along Thompson Street between Washington Square South and West 3rd Street recently during construction of their new Interfaith center at 58 Washington Square South. Their reason: to install an intricate heating system. Clearly, the design could have been configured otherwise.

In December, Bergman took a strong stand, with the rest of the board’s committee, when NYU officials came before them with these plans. The Parks Committee disapproved of this arborcidal concept and instructed NYU to find a new way to proceed. Yet, it was revealed on Wednesday that the Parks Department went ahead and gave the University the jurisdiction to send the trees to the chopping block.

Trees now gone. To those who objected when this news was brought to light, Bergman told them, quickly shutting down any discussion: it was done, yes, we objected, move on.

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is in favor of a MillionTrees, there may be some planting going on, but it seems for every one tree planted, another is axed. (See Union Square and Yankee Stadium Parkland, as well as Washington Square Park14 trees axed in Phase I, unclear # in Phase II to be destroyed.)

Another example: the two magnificent, non-uniform, non-aligned trees that graced the path from Garibaldi Statue alongside Teen Plaza to LaGuardia Place at WSP. I’m not certain the type tree they were but they had character, were clearly very old, and their branches drooped at bizarre angles, infusing immediate charm and an eclectic feeling.

When landscape designer George Vellonakis walked me through a tour of his plans for Phase II in May 2009, I asked specifically about those trees. As he had stated previously in public, he confirmed to me that those trees would remain. But, like most everything that shows a bit of non-conformity at the Park, as I walked through Wednesday night, I noted those trees are gone.

Parks Department Given Way Too Much Latitude

In the end, there was no presentation from the Parks Department on WSP. Bergman was vague about when they would return (March was fleetingly mentioned) and didn’t seem to recall the stated agenda items from December slated to be readdressed at this meeting.

It wouldn’t be hard for the city agency to detect that Bergman is quick to forgive – or more pointedly ignore –  failings on their part. He’s very adept at pointing out that CB2 role is advisory, instead of forging a more activist and assertive front. I’m not certain why, when the CB2 Chair was rotated at the beginning of this year, new committee chairpersons were not put into play.

Blueprints Dropped Off: Washington Square Park Phase II

The Parks Department dropped off diagrams displaying Washington Square Park Phase II which were placed on a table for viewing.

Evident from the plans:

*There will be 19 chess tables. I can’t recall the previous number (does anyone offhand?) but it looked like an increase although the Parks Department had initially said the number would remain the same. That SW corner becomes reduced in size – becoming another conformed, aligned “Plaza,” like the other three that grace the corners of the Park’s quadrants.

*Nine NYPD security cameras and devices, four within the Park, installed on poles. “2 cameras will be installed on new poles that currently do not have security devices installed.” I gather the other five will be along the perimeter of the Park.

*As we knew, four of the six seating alcoves will be preserved. Three are supposed to remain as they were, one reduced in size.

*As previously outlined, the two dog runs will be relocated along Washington Square South. (Designer Vellonakis previously has stated that no trees would be disturbed there. We’ll see…)

*Garibaldi is being moved from his position facing West to a position a bit further North, facing South.

As for Phase III design plans, it seems that they will be unveiled by the Parks Department at the Parks Committee meeting in March – at least that’s what was implied. Whether the Parks Department will keep to their word, we shall see. We’ll also see whether Community Board 2’s Parks Committee holds them to it.

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For a look at the Phase II diagrams and a report about the meeting from Curbed, go here.

My previous WSP Blog post on Phase II plans.

Washington Square Park Task Force to Meet Wednesday, December 2nd to Address Final Phases of WSP Redesign Plan

On Wednesday, December 2nd, the Washington Square Park Task Force and Community Board 2’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Committee will meet to address the following in relation to the final phases of Washington Square Park’s redesign:

* Review of the current status of Phase II construction including presentation of various final details of the park plan.

* Review of current status of plans for (Phase III) the Washington Square Park maintenance building and rest rooms.

The meeting will begin at 7:15 p.m. Various NYC Parks Department representatives will be present.

Earlier that evening, at 6:30 p.m., CB2’s Parks Committee will be addressing a proposal by NYU to remove 6 trees on Thompson Street in connection with construction of the Interfaith Center (58 Washington Square South) and installation of heating pipes under the sidewalk.

Location: NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Place, Room 714

NYU: “Thanks for your patience” (Former Provincetown Playhouse Site); the University Continues Its Unregulated Building, Ignoring Community Agreements

Former site of Provincetown Playhouse

On looking at this site on Sunday (6/28), when these photos were taken, it sure didn’t look like much had been preserved despite New York University ultimately agreeing to a mere pittance of preservation at this historic site.  This agreement was “to preserve the four walls and entry facade of the theater portion of the building.” Why does this University not care about architecture and historical preservation?

I asked Andrew Berman from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation why these buildings aren’t protected by Landmarks regulations.  He informed me that they currently fall outside of the designated Greenwich Village historic district outlined by the Landmarks Preservation Commission(LPC).  There is work being done by GVSHP and others to include the South Village – and the LPC recently made strides to “calendar” serious consideration of expanding the district – however, currently it is not protected.  (You can read more about it at GVSHP’s site.)  This accounts for NYU’s plans being largely unregulated despite all their talk about wanting to be a “good neighbor.”  

Neither the former Provincetown Playhouse or the other building NYU recently got its hands on, 58 Washington Square South (directly across from the Park between Judson Church and NYU’s Kimmel Center – another architectural blunder), are protected in any way and the University has shown that they do not stick to their word.  

Mr. Berman stated:

 “While the 58 Washington Square South site is not in a designated historic district, it is within GVSHP’s proposed South Village Historic District, which NYU begrudgingly, after flip-flopping several times, agreed to support.  In spite of that pledge of support, however, they demolished the building on the site, much as they have with the Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments building at 133 MacDougal Street, also within the proposed South Village Historic District.  So while these sites do not yet fall under LPC regulation, one might have thought that NYU’s pledge to support landmark designation would mean buildings within it were at least safe from demolition by them, but one would be wrong.”

Previous WSP Blog Posts:

* What’s Up With Community Board 2? Approves NYU’s Demolitions Plans for 133-139 MacDougal Street / Provincetown Playhouse Despite Widespread Community Disapproval

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