Volume 22, Number 52 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 7 - 13, 2010
Downtown Express photo by Lincoln Anderson
A participant at N.Y.U.’s open house on its 2031 plans last month pointed to the 35-to-38-story tower the university wants to add to its landmarked Silver Towers complex at Bleecker St. and LaGuardia Place. The buildings N.Y.U. plans to add are shown in white resin. Those it owns are in dark wood.
‘Give us N.Y.U. tower, please!’ begs C.B. 1 chairperson
By Lincoln Anderson and John Bayles
Julie Menin, the chairperson of Lower Manhattan’s Community Board 1, is continuing to push for New York University to build a planned 35-to-38-story tower — not shoehorned into the South Village on one of its superblocks — but farther downtown near the World Trade Center, where there is plenty of room to build, and where the community would welcome the project with open arms.
Menin and Catherine McVay Hughes, the board’s vice chairperson, met with top N.Y.U. officials on Friday to make the pitch directly. At the meeting were Lynne Brown, N.Y.U. senior vice president; Alicia Hurley, the university’s vice president of government affairs and community engagement; and John Beckman, the school’s spokesperson.
The idea on N.Y.U.’s new tower emerged recently from Borough President Scott Stringer’s Community Task Force on N.Y.U. Development — and Menin has picked up the ball and is running with it. She recently spoke about the idea at Community Board 2 — which contains Greenwich Village and N.Y.U.’s “campus core,” centered around Washington Square and the superblocks — and said she got applause. The occasion was a presentation of N.Y.U.’s 2031 expansion plan at C.B. 2’s Arts and Institutions Committee a few weeks ago.
“I said it was very clear that [a tower] would be noncontextual in the Village — but that it would be in context with the other buildings at the World Trade Center site,” Menin said. “People were clapping — they don’t want to see the tower in their community. In Lower Manhattan, we’re one of the few neighborhoods in the city that’s zoned for high towers.”
N.Y.U. has said the planned fourth tower, which would be added to its Silver Towers complex, would house visiting faculty from its “Global Networked University” — its group of more than a dozen international campuses.
But Menin said, while N.Y.U. might consider Governors Island or Downtown Brooklyn “remote sites” for expansion in relation to its core campus, that can’t be said about the W.T.C. — where “Site 5,” the Deutsche Bank site, remains unbuilt — and the Financial District, where there are a number of stalled construction projects that would also be suitable for N.Y.U. facilities.
“We talked at length about Lower Manhattan as a neighborhood,” Menin said. “These areas are not remote. They are easily accessible by subway, by bus and by bike and by foot. I told them they should look at it as a core site.”
At the C.B. 1 meeting on Tuesday, Menin discussed the possible scenario, calling it a “marriage of culture and education.”
“Whether it’s faculty housing or classroom space — the idea is you’re building something a university would use instead of another corporation,” she said. “It’s the whole idea of Ground Zero and what we want to see there. We already have a lot of office space.”
Menin said it’s abundantly clear that there’s strong opposition in the Village area to N.Y.U.’s plan.
“I’ve been in constant contact with Andrew Berman. He’s obviously extremely supportive,” Menin said of the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, a leading critic of N.Y.U.’s expansion plans.
Menin made the idea public about three weeks ago, before speaking to N.Y.U. When Downtown Express asked Hurley two weeks ago about the C.B. 1 alternative, she responded that N.Y.U. “looked forward to future conversations” about increasing its academic presence in the Financial District, where it leases a portion of the Woolworth Building for its School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
But Hurley didn’t mention faculty housing — which is what N.Y.U. foresees for the fourth tower it would add on the southernmost of its two superblocks, between LaGuardia Place and Mercer St. and Houston and Bleecker Sts. N.Y.U. also owns the Washington Square Village superblock just to the north.
Regarding the recent meeting with Menin and McVay Hughes, Hurley said, “We sat with them last week and were clear that we are open to a discussion about the Financial District. But it would not replace the proposals for building on our own property, something we can do incrementally and consistent with near- and long-term university needs.”
Under N.Y.U.’s 2031 growth plan, the university seeks to add up to 1.5 million to 2 million square feet in its Washington Square-area campus core — mostly on its pair of superblocks. The university also envisions adding another 1.5 million square feet in the larger “neighborhood,” defined by N.Y.U. as being between Canal and 18th Sts. — but exactly where these locations would be is currently unknown, and would depend on what real estate becomes available.
In addition, in its search for space, N.Y.U. hopes to expand at three “remote” locations, adding 1 million square feet apiece on Governors Island, in Downtown Brooklyn and along the First Ave. “Health Corridor.”
Jo Hamilton, C.B. 2’s chairperson, noted she doesn’t like to give her personal opinions on issues before the board, but she did tell Downtown Express, “I think that N.Y.U. is looking for space outside the core, and this is space they should consider — and it’s ready to go. It’s ironic: We have Community Board 2 saying, ‘Find other space,’ and Community Board 1 is saying, ‘Come here, come here!’ It doesn’t happen like that very often.”
Hamilton said she was at the committee meeting where Menin made her pitch. Asked if she was clapping along with everyone else, Hamilton said she tries to remain impartial and focus on steering the meetings.
“I will not admit to clapping,” she said. “I will admit to a smile. As chairperson, I really try not to clap.”
Although the N.Y.U. officials didn’t make any commitments to Menin, she said she’s going to bring up the issue at a meeting of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, of which she’s a board member.
“I’m going to keep up the push and try to get N.Y.U. to come down to our community instead,” she said.