Volume 23, Number 11 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | July 21 - 27, 2010
N.Y.U. begins public review of expansion
Earlier this month, after four years and more than 50 meetings of the Borough President’s path breaking Community Task Force on N.Y.U. Development, the borough president, Scott Stringer, announced that he was “suspending” the task force to make way for two critical public reviews of N.Y.U.’s plans.
N.Y.U. has a long-term city-wide strategy for growth that emerged from its intensive community wide planning initiative which was launched in 2006. The strategy calls for situating half of its 6 million projected new square footage outside of the Greenwich Village neighborhood, and maximizing building on its own existing footprint in the Greenwich Village core.
The task force’s report — released to coincide with N.Y.U.’s rollout of this plan to add 6 million square feet of space over 25 years — had two key points: First, N.Y.U. must prioritize looking at remote sites to expand — not only Governors Island, the First Ave. “Health Corridor” and Downtown Brooklyn, but also Long Island City and the Financial District; and second, N.Y.U. must avoid oversaturation of its Village “campus core” around Washington Square. However, N.Y.U.’s plan to expand on its own superblocks calls for adding up to 2 million square feet within the campus core.
The first public review, scheduled to begin in the Fall 2010, is by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which will consider N.Y.U.’s proposal to add a fourth tower to the landmarked I.M. Pei-designed University Village complex at Bleecker Street. and LaGuardia Place. Not only does this planned 38-story tower — which would include a hotel as well as faculty residences — need Landmarks approval, but a zoning change would be needed to allow it to be built. The tower is already facing community opposition. C.B. 2 will also review this Landmarks application.
The second review is a ULURP (uniform land use review procedure) for two South Village superblocks and the area east of Washington Square. By spring 2011, N.Y.U. expects to be deep into this ULURP process, which takes around seven months to complete. The full scope of proposed work includes a new building on the Coles gym site across from the Angelica Film Center, plus two new infill buildings in Washington Square Village, as well as a rezoning east of Washington Square Park.
As part of the ULURP, C.B. 2 will hold public reviews of the plans and will weigh in with an advisory recommendation. Stringer, too, will have an advisory recommendation on the proposal while the City Council — with Margaret Chin representing the northern end of her district — will have a binding vote on the proposal.
Like C.B. 2, Community Boards 1 and 6 also are eager to publicly review the N.Y.U. plan. C.B. 1 is actively encouraging N.Y.U. to expand south of Canal St., perhaps to what will become Tower 5 at the W.T.C.; while C.B. 6 has the First Avenue “Health Corridor” in its district, which has been identified as one remote site for expansion.
Over all, the task force has done a terrific job - community members and university officials came to the table every other month for discussion.
The task force reinforced N.Y.U.’s decision to develop a long-term plan, and got the university to sign onto “planning principles” — including contextual development and prioritizing reuse over demolition and redevelopment. The process fostered in N.Y.U. a new level of transparency and community outreach. The university deserves credit for embracing the process.
Now, it’s time to turn the process over to Landmarks review, ULURP and the community boards. It’s a very public process, and we encourage the public to stand up and let their voices be heard on N.Y.U’s plans to expand.