Plans Change For NYU The Community Still Concerned

By Richard Dun

New York University has some in the Greenwich Village community upset by their big plans to expand over the next two decades to make room for future growth and avoid overcrowding on campus.

NYU reported on their blog about a community board meeting where “no less than 40 people spoke against its plans” to alter its central location around Washington Square Park as well as create new remote locations.

Jean Kersaint, industrial designer and NYU alumnus who still lives in the neighborhood, said he was worried that foot traffic would increase as a result of the new buildings.

“The Village has a very active night life, if they go through with all their plans it will look like that all the time. Possibly worse,” he said.
Washington Square Park

Immediately to the south of Washington Square Park, work had already begun on the foundation to NYU’s Center for Academic and Spiritual Life building. The adjacent building has a higher roofline making the proposed building seem unobtrusive to the area.

In September, NYU completed the “green cogeneration plant area” located at 251 Mercer St. This walkway leads students and faculty to the super blocks located south of West 3rd Street.

The university currently has 11,000 housing units for their students and costs around $20,000 a semester per student each semester, according to NYU’s website.

One employee who asked to remain anonymous said, “NYU is overcrowded and over priced so I think they need to expand the campus to give the students the value they are paying for.”

Emails to NYU’s press office asking for comment about community concerns were not answered.

NYU currently owns the majority of its buildings. Universities are non-profits organizations, which do not pay property taxes. Leasing comes with a risk of potential rent increases leaving the university with a decision to either pay the increase or relocate those facilities.

To the east of Washington Square Park, NYU controls almost all property between the park and Broadway from West 4th Street to Waverly Place. Three building renovations east of the park at 25 West 4th Street, 15 Washington Place, and The Cantor Film Center will soon be under way.

NYU’s website states NYU is the largest university in New York City with a current enrollment of 50,917 students and more than 16,000 employees. NYU currently controls over 5 million square feet of interior space in the city, most of which are concentrated in Greenwich Village, the website stated.

Brian Lee, a junior, said, “I can’t imagine having to move through a larger crowd of people to get from class to class.”

The areas of most concern are the so-called “super blocks,” where NYU has its biggest concentration of tall buildings. The site considered the southern most super block is located between Mercer Street, West Houston, LaGuardia Place, and Bleecker Street. I.M. PEI developed the silver towers in the 1967 and the building site became a landmark in 2008. The site was landmarked by the Landmark Preservation Commission while NYU’s plans were forming.

The silver towers are 3 buildings laid out in a pinwheel formation. That design allows the 3 buildings to not obstruct each other’s views and natural light. They wanted to add a 400-foot tower to I.M. Pei’s land marked silver towers site. The proposed tower would be the tallest structure in all of Greenwich Village.

That building from the original plans recently changed the week before Thanksgiving.

I.M. Pei failed to approve NYU’s proposed structure being added onto his landmarked site. The community has been trying to stop their efforts for months.

Another area of concern is the NYU-owned lot where the Morton Williams supermarket sits, on the corner of Bleecker Street and LaGuardia Place. As its alternative plan the university will replace the supermarket with a building similar to the 400-foot tower in square footage, according to NYU’s blog.

Charlotte Datri a local resident walks down that block all the time.

“I walk down Bleecker Street to get to the 6 train, and this stretch is already very ugly. I guess if you were to add a fourth tower it would not do so much damage,” said Datri. “If you stay on that block, I’m not sure if it would destroy to much because the damage has already been done.”

According to NYU’s blog the building replacing the supermarket will be shorter than the 400-foot tower because the floor plate is larger. NYU plans to keep the ground level of the building commercial but there is no report stating that space will be a supermarket in the future.

The supermarket needs to be demolished to build a larger structure. If the supermarket returns to the same location, the community and storeowner will be temporarily inconvenienced due to construction.

“They have those really big dorm buildings right here on Third Street but if it’s going to be even more then people are worried.” said Datri.

Video Interview with Charlotte Datri

Plans for the other super block where Washington Square Village is located between Mercer Street, West 3rd Street, LaGuardia Place, and Bleecker Street remain unchanged.

The major apartment complex Washington Square Village has many concerned local residents. In its plans, NYU proposes two slender and curved buildings to allow maximum amounts of light and air into a pedestrian plaza. The center will be shaped with a light garden. The garden will create new walkways between the buildings.

This development currently has a public parking lot and central garden. NYU plans on leveling this interior area and removing vehicle traffic to create additional walkways around campus.

“I love the garden it’s a nice and quite place for me to go and sit down because not everyone knows about it,” said Datri. “Washington Square Park is very crowded and the new pedestrian plaza they are proposing would remove this beautiful space.”

To optimize the new construction the plans include a large amount of underground space for additional facilities. The parking lot removed from this superblock was planned to move one block south, according to NYU’s website.

However, the plans rejected by I.M Pei will leave NYU with nowhere to place that parking lot because of the disapproval of adding a fourth tower to the landmarked site.

This change in plans has given some residents a brighter outlook at the situation. Kersaint said “That is good, maybe PEI will be able to further disrupt their plans, since the local community has not been able to.”

Interactive map: Plans for NYU 2031

View NYU 2031 Expansion Plan (Interactive Map) in a larger map