New York Times Supports NYU Expansion In Editorial

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In an editorial published in today's paper, the New York Times throws its weight behind NYU's controversial expansion plan, saying that the project's opponents have "mostly overreacted." Although the paper does honor some criticisms of the plan, their ultimate point is broad. "N.Y.U., along with other great educational institutions in New York, like Columbia, needs to expand," the Times wrote. "It's good for the entire city, and it's inevitable." Runnin' Scared reached out to Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which has fought against the plan. Berman said that the editorial "ignores some of the basic facts."

As for the advice the paper doles out to the university, the Times suggests that NYU should heed concerns that two large triangular buildings will "create walls to the streets on either side of the construction area." Furthermore, they should "make sure that space is truly public and does not become an internal courtyard walled off by four towers," and should steer clear of their tendency to have "famous architects to produce famously unattractive buildings."

The Times contends in its conclusion:

Change never comes easy to New York. We understand Village residents' anxiety (although that would have more credibility if the alternative were not that N.Y.U. should just build in other people's backyards). But this important New York institution should be able to expand in its core area. It is one of the nation's elite universities; it adds high-paying jobs and intellectual allure to the city and to the Village. It is just the sort of thing New Yorkers should encourage.

But, to Berman, the editorial misses a lot of points and other approaches that the university could take, like building a satellite campus in a location like the Financial District, Long Island City or Downtown Brooklyn. The Village, he said, has "very very limited room" for growth. Furthermore, the space that some of the proposed plans would occupy is public.

"They are not building exclusively on their own land," he said. "They are taking park space in what is statistically one of the most park starved communities in New York City."

Berman added that land which the university does own was obtained through urban renewal had comes with stipulations against the proposed development.

Community Board 2 unanimously opposed the plan in February. As the editorial notes, the plan is now in Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's hands, from there it heads to the city planners and, following that, to the City Council.

[EstherZuckerman / ezwrites]

Go to Runnin' Scared for all our latest news coverage.

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2 comments
QuinnMustgo
QuinnMustgo

The NY times editorial board must never have an opinion on stopping student debt since they support this plan.  The administration of NYU is an example of a disease that is destroying quality, affordable education for the middle class.  The plan is financed by student debt, debt most students will never be able to be paid back. 

Proud but concerned Villager
Proud but concerned Villager

As both a Villager and member of theNYU faculty (and thus a stakeholder in the intellectual and fiscal vitality ofmy university), I must respond to a few points that were made in the NYTeditorial/quasi-advertisement. The two most misleading claims that the NYUadministration and Public Affairs Office continues to pump out into the pressare that opponents of the 2.5 million-square-foot, nearly 6-billion-dollar plan(more than 2x the university endowment) -- be they local residents,conservation groups or the NYU faculty -- are (1) stubbornly"anti-development"; and (2) that the university simply can't fathomwhy there is so much widespread opposition, given NYU's willingness to restrictits current expansion plan to property it already owns. After all, the NYTeditorial claims, the expansion is in the university's "backyard."The facts -- always an inconvenience to a single-minded, misinformationcampaign -- reveal something dramatically different on the ground.

 

I'd like to address two particularlyerroneous points here, so as to expose them as deliberate attempts atmisguiding the public who are not altogether familiar with the ongoing debate.

 

Opponents of NYU 2031 are not againstthe construction workers in this fight. They're most certainly not againstsmall businesses. As many of your readers are now aware, 30 owners of some ofthe most prominent small (and large) business on and around Washington Square(the Washington Sq. Hotel, Blue Hill Restaurant and a number of other storesand restaurants all along LaGuardia Place, like Marumi Restaurant) have comeout publicly against the aggressive scale of plan and the administration'spersistently unilateral way of doing things in the community. Residents,business owners and local groups have encouraged and even pleaded with theadministration, in one voice, to embrace the invitation from CB1 in DowntownManhattan to build dorms there, just a 10-15 minute subway ride away fromWashington Square; every suggestion for this kind of creative, more flexiblethinking, whether proposed by the community or Council Member Margaret Chindirectly, has fallen on deaf ears. We’re not against construction; we’reagainst reckless DESTRUCTION: the destruction of a rare urban treasure like theSasaki Garden in the middle of Washington Square Village and the public KeyPark Playground adjacent to it; the destruction of vital amenities (greenspace, clean air, light) that have long been so critical for the quality oflife of the local residents living in the two already-heavily populatedSuperblocks, including no less than 40% of NYU's own faculty; and thedestruction of the green strips on Mercer Street (on which the communitycurrently enjoys a public playground and a dog run with a 200+ membership). Andit's on this last point (i.e., the green strips), in particular, that the NYUPR reps are being especially disingenuous. NYU does NOT own the green strips onMercer. The City -- namely the DOT and the Parks & Recreation Dept. -- does!What Beckman claims to be a building campaign that would keep strictly to theintegrity of the footprint of NYU's owned land is simply not factuallyaccurate. NYU cannot -- and should not be, in any way, legally permitted to --build the giant "boomerang" structures (designed by the Toshiko Morigroup) that it proposes for WSV without variances in longstanding zoning laws.The green strips on Mercer are not theirs to do with what they please. Let'sget this straight once and for all: This is NYC land. It belongs to thecommunity!

 

And speaking of the community: Let'sbe clear, the Sasaki Garden in the WSV courtyard absolutely IS public! And Iwould invite anyone, including the editors of every New York paper, to visitthis remarkable site. There are gates at either end of this oasis (presently all abloom with cherry tree blossoms) ...gatesthat the NYU administration insisted in putting in! It wasn't until there waswidespread local opposition to limiting access to the Garden in this way that NYUfinally relented and made access free for all. To claim that this space issomehow "closed" is utterly false.

One final point. It's a point that hasto do with my role -- my life -- as a professor, as well as a local resident. NYUisn't simply an "economic engine" in and of itself. The NYUadministration, its legal department and Public Affairs Office, etc., are justone part of a very large organism. The lifeblood of this organism is thestudents and faculty. These two elements are the real, twin intellectual --and, by extension, economic -- engines of NYU. Without us, NYU would be little morethan a brand, a logo. And this is precisely what it's now in grave danger ofbeing reduced to: Nothing more than a purple flag, flying from Washington Squareto Abu Dhabi to Shanghai to Sydney. One has to wonder: Is the Universitybecoming like a shark that has to keep swimming and feeding to even sustainitself? Of course, if you're admitting over 1/3 of all undergraduate applicants(and if you want to grow by a whopping 10,000-12,000 students in the next 20yrs, as the administration has admitted), you certainly will need enormousamounts of new space.  In fact, I wouldnot be in the least surprised if, by 2051, the University will probably need toexpand by another 2.5 million sq. feet!

 

It's not that "many NYU educatorsare opposed to [the plan]." Virtually ALL NYU faculty are strongly opposedto its outsized ambition and the aggressiveness with which it's being imposedon the community and the university's own students and faculty. Neither I normy NYU colleagues will allow the administration to speak for us and to continueto spread this fallacy that this expansion will somehow bring in more faculty.That is most certainly what will not happen. The top faculty will leave theuniversity in droves, moving to other institutions where their standard ofliving -- and the lives of their families and children -- will not be imperiledby 20 straight years of construction, yards from their windows.

 

Faculty -- and there are hundreds ofus, not just a dozen or two loners, characterized by some of plan’s advocatesas disgruntled idealists, chasing moonbeams – are justifiably concerned thatthe disruption caused by the enormous scale of construction in WashingtonSquare Village and/or Silver Towers will have catastrophic effects on theretention, not to mention the recruitment, of outstanding faculty.

Nor will this expansion spare thestudents. Make no mistake: It will be the NYU students -- already constitutingthe most indebted student body of ANY private university in the nation -- thatwill bear the heaviest burden of footing the 6-billion-dollar expansion bill inthe form of increased tuition and other fees.

 

Lastand certainly not least, we, the faculty, believe that the execution of the2031 plan, given its disgraceful aggressiveness, will result in an irreparablerift between the university and our community neighbors. This may, indeed, bethe cruelest irony of all: That NYU now threatens to destroy the very essenceof the neighborhood from which it has benefited so richly and for so long. 

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