City Council Holds Hearing on NYU Expansion
July 7th, 2012, 11:40 am
MAS joined hundreds of advocates and local residents including actor Matthew Broderick last Friday at City Hall to testify about New York University’s plan to expand their Greenwich Village campus by adding almost 2 million square feet to their two residential superblocks. An early morning rally on City Hall’s steps against NYU’s expansion organized by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation featuring Assembly member Deborah Glick started the day. Shortly after 9 a.m., hundreds filed into the august Council Chambers to have their concerns heard by the Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises during a hearing that would last the entire day. Council Member Margaret Chin, whose district includes the project site, stated her concerns about the project’s scale, while understanding NYU’s need to grow. For almost three hours, NYU President John Sexton and University officials were peppered with Council questions often focused on clarification regarding the specifics of the additional space needs and the amount and use of the project’s public open space. MAS waited for 5 ½ hours of testimony to express our continuing support for NYU’s educational and economic contributions to the city, while suggesting reductions in building height and overall density along with reconfiguring of two buildings to facilitate meaningful public access through the property. We also request that going forward, the City consider large institutions’ expansion plans by addressing their needs on a citywide basis. The many opponents included the Greenwich Village Historical Society, Senator Tom Duane, Assembly member Glick, citywide advocacy organizations, NYU faculty and community members. There was much testimony about how the project would destroy neighborhood character and negatively impact residents’ quality of life because of poorly conceived open space, construction and other impacts. Despite the long length of the hearing and the huge audience, the room was relatively quiet because Council committee chair Weprin requested people use silent “jazz hands” to show their support for testimony. The University plan was supported by members of local construction and trades unions, who spoke of the thousands of jobs that will be generated over the 20 plus years of construction. Other groups including the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, the New York Building Conference and the Real Estate Board of New York all voiced their support for the University, emphasizing the positive economic benefits associated with the expansion. The City Planning Commission approved NYU’s plans with a few modifications earlier last month. City Council is expected to make a final decision on the proposal by the end of July. Read MAS’s position for more specifics on NYU’s proposal and our recommendations.