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NYU Plan Moves to City Council

nyu expansion plan debateLast week, the City Planning Commission approved, with modifications, NYU’s plans to expand its campus in Greenwich Village. MAS has carefully monitored the University’s expansion plans as they’ve evolved over the past several years. We believe the Commission’s modifications are appropriate and in line with MAS’s recommendations but more changes to the plan are still necessary to ensure NYU expands in a responsible and responsive manner. MAS recognizes the University’s critical need for space, however NYU’s development would add roughly 2 million square feet to two Greenwich Village area superblocks, forever changing the character of the neighborhood. This proposed redevelopment provides an opportunity to reimagine the superblocks to help knit them back into the surrounding grid, enhance the community’s access to much needed open space and ultimately result in a plan that supports the goals of NYU, its neighbors, and New York City as a whole. The Commission’s modifications include reducing the height of two of the four proposed new buildings. However, the 299 foot tall Zipper Building would remain the same, despite the deletion of the hotel use on the corner of Houston and Mercer.  MAS strongly believes that the height should be reduced to integrate with the 8-13 story buildings located directly across Mercer Street. The Commission commended NYU’s proposal to develop a significant amount of floor area below grade, which reduced the square footage above ground. As the proposal would still add approximately 800,000 square feet of below-grade academic space, MAS recommends the below- grade space be further reduced in order to better comply with  the Zoning Resolution’s bulk controls meant to prevent overcrowding and ensure that adequate levels of light and air reach interior spaces. There has been a great deal of contention in regards to the proposed changes to the open space because neighborhood groups have cared for these spaces for many years. To help the neighborhood preserve one of their treasured playgrounds on Mercer Street, NYU has agreed to preserve the Key Park playground until construction commences on the Mercer Building. The Commission’s provision of a management and programming oversight committee for the proposed open space is also a useful addition to the plan. MAS hopes that this provision will help ensure the new open spaces are designed in consultation with neighborhood groups and will welcome all members of the community. NYU’s application is now under the review by City Council who will hold a public hearing later this month. MAS will be there to continue to advocate for the best project possible.