NYU Super Expansion 2031: Still time to weigh in to City Planning Commission Today

If you missed the City Planning Commission meeting in late April on NYU’s expansion plan “2031,” there’s still a chance to weigh in!

Friday May 4th Monday, May 7 is the deadline for the submission of all written testimony addressed to the City Planning Commission in response to the NYU administration’s ULURP request for its proposed expansion. The 15 committee members are listed here.

If you need some context for the issues, check out the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation sample letters, then add to it. Do it today!

Letters can be sent either by fax (212-720-3219); by email, to the committee Chair (aburden@planning.nyc.gov); or by mail (maybe drop it off at this point or send asap):

Department of City Planning, Attn: Amanda Burden, Chair
22 Reade Street, 6th floor, New York, NY 10007

The Villager had an interesting recap of the meeting. Planning Commission Chair Amanda Burden — who has not been overly discerning in her care of our city, and under Bloomberg’s authority, has overseen rezoning after rezoning of neighborhoods in our city (not with good effect) — asked in relation to the concept that the faculty needs to be located within the “super blocks” around Washington Square: “Why can’t they be anyplace else?”

Good question!

NYU Prez John Sexton has made the argument that the University faculty need to be a 10-15 minute walk from the “Washington Square campus” stating (as he always seems to do) that to stay competitive with other Universities, this is necessary. GVSHP has countered this with a document, “The MYTH of the ten minute walk from Washington Square”.

It states:

As becomes clear, most schools maintain campuses over distances the equivalent of those between Washington Square and the Financial District, and in many cases over considerably greater distances. Further, few if any of these campuses have the wealth of mass transit options that allow travel between Washington Square and a location like the Financial District to take as little as 5 to 10 minutes, and frequently require walking time of much more than 10-15 minutes, as NYU claims is essential.

NYU is also beyond resistant to moving further south and expanding more within the Financial District. We know that they overly market their connection to Washington Square – fine – but their flags are already everywhere. The institution is changing the neighborhood, no longer for the better, lending a transient quality, and, also as a landlord, raising rents and kicking out longstanding tenants.

So, write today!

* Previously at WSP Blog:

NYU’s “Marketing of Washington Square” Equals $$$

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.

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…

Upcoming Talks on Stanford White & Henry James

Hosted by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation:

When Architecture Could Fashion a Nation: A Lecture on the Architecture of McKim, Mead & White
Tuesday, January 18, 6:30 – 8:00 P.M.
Cooper Union, Rose Auditorium, 41 Cooper Square (at 7th Street)
Co-sponsored by The Cooper Union

As America matured in the mid 19th century, the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & (Stanford) White provided buildings for a changing society; from wooden houses in the country to regal social clubs in Manhattan. Many of the Village buildings we walk by and use everyday are fashionable creations of McKim, Mead & White—Washington Square Arch, Judson Memorial Church, and the Tompkins Square Library, to name a few. Learn how this firm helped shape a nation in transition and transformed Manhattan into a budding metropolis.

Talk by Professor Mosette Broderick, architectural historian and Director of the Urban Design and Architecture Studies program as well as the London-based Historical and Sustainable Architecture MA Program at NYU, recently released the book, TRIUMVIRATE: McKim, Mead & White–Art, Architecture, Scandal, and Class In America’s Gilded Age.

Henry James, A Child of the Village
Thursday, February 3, 6:30 – 8:00 P.M.
Church of the Ascension, 12 West 11th Street (at 5th Avenue)
Co-sponsored by the Beaux Arts Alliance

Henry James was born in Greenwich Village in 1843, a neighborhood which always had a special place in his heart. Cultural historian David Garrard Lowe will discuss the works of James, as well as his life in New York. The Church of the Ascension set the stage for one of the most moving and mysterious passages in James’ The American Scene, a book which grew out of the author’s last visit to his home town in 1905.

(above, modified versions of GVSHP event descriptions)

Each talk is free; reservations required.
RSVP: rsvp@gvshp.org or 212-475-9585 ext. 34

* See Previous WSP Blog Posts on Henry James and Stanford White and The Washington Square Arch

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

Tonite, Mon. June 22nd Open Forum on NYU: 2031 Plan Which Means… More Expansion!

Tonite !  Monday, June 22nd, 6:30 p.m. an Open Forum on NYU: 2031 Plan presented by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Greenwich Village Block Associations, and a dozen other community groups.

I know it doesn’t seem possible that NYU could conceivably be considering expanding.  I mean, seriously, can’t they stop now?  The University has enacted such dramatic and unwelcome changes on the character of our City and the communities it has planted its flags in over the last few decades.  Apparently NYU plans to double THAT rate of expansion over the next 22 years.

According to the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation:

As you may know, NYU is formulating its ‘2031 Plan,’ which is intended to serve as a blueprint for its development over the next 22 years.  However, outlines of the plan which NYU has shared with the public thus far indicate the potential for a very large expansion of the university in and around its core facilities in the Village, East Village, and NoHo during that time period —roughly double its rate of expansion over the last several decades.

The Forum will be held at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Sq South @ Thompson Street.


Note: Blog postings may be a bit sporadic this week!