NYU President John Sexton speaks at Term Limit Hearings in ‘Up is Down’ Testimony

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New York University has dramatically expanded its real estate tentacles and University purple flags throughout New York City over the last seven years under Mayor Bloomberg. Many believe that the University, which holds most (if not all) of the real estate surrounding Washington Square Park, pulled strings behind-the-scenes with the Bloomberg Administration to impose the dramatic redesign of this park over the wishes of the community.

So, it should come as no surprise where NYU President John Sexton would fall on term limits, and the extension of Mayor Bloomberg’s reign.

More Bloomberg. More NYU.

When Mr. Sexton appeared before the New York City Council during the public hearing the same day I did, I was surprised to see him there. And yet, would I have expected a University president to give such an uninspiring and unthoughtful testimony as to why term limits should be extended, thereby overturning a public vote via legislation? No.

The NYU President appeared a few panels following mine on Friday, October 17th, at City Hall in the City Council Chambers. (There were typically panels grouped together of 4-7 people.) During the two hearings, most of the well known politicians and corporate CEOs appeared early on, given preference in the order of the day. But there he was later in the afternoon.

I had a hard time following Sexton’s testimony. It was very up is down. He never spoke about how NYU, which is the #2 or #3 real estate holder in the city, has benefited from Mayor Bloomberg’s reign. However, it was underlying in his testimony which otherwise offered little logic or reason.

Mr. Sexton urged the NY City Council body to vote in favor of Bloomberg’s bill to give himself and City Council members a third term citing it as an “act of bravery.” He stated that each City Council member needed to say to his or herself:”Because this is right, I am doing this.”

A City Council Member asked Mr. Sexton about “cynicism” from the public if the City Council overturned the will of the people — who voted in two public referendums to implement two term limits on our elected officials. Sexton replied that he IS “concerned about the growth of cynicism and that we are becoming a society of distrust.” At the same time, he “opposes term limits” and feels additional time “gives leaders time to solve complex problems.” He said something about people needing “stability in their lives.” (Which caused me to have some cynicism thinking that the NYU Prez knows that stability in the University’s real estate interests will come from Mr. Bloomberg.)

During my testimony prior to his, I mentioned the costly and unnecessary redesign of Washington Square Park and the issue of “privitization and reduction of our public spaces under the Bloomberg Administration.” (If I had realized Mr. Sexton was there, I would have added NYU in somewhere.)

Brooklyn City Council Member Bill de Blasio, when speaking during the term limits vote a few days later, said something that could have applied to Mr. Sexton. Council Member de Blasio said, “George Orwell would have loved arguments used by the Speaker and the Mayor… [They say] by taking away people’s right to vote, we are giving them more choice.”

John Sexton’s argument to the City Council was that by taking away people’s right to vote, the New York City Council is displaying “bravery.” By giving themselves a third term against the expressed will of the people, by caving to the wishes of a Billionaire Mayor who purposefully waited too long to put the issue to the public, by not standing up to this Mayor, the Council Members are displaying “bravery.”

I can only imagine what advice he gives graduating NYU Seniors.