As NYU celebrates new dorm, Village groups meet to block school expansion

By Jovana Rizzo | June 22, 2009 06:00PM

On the same night of New York University’s neighborhood barbecue celebrating the completion of its newest dorm, community activists are meeting to voice their opposition to the school’s overall expansion plans.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said the goals of tonight’s meeting are to educate the public about NYU’s plans, discuss how it will affect the neighborhood and mobilize people to push the university to expand outside of Greenwich Village.

“The bottom line is we need to make NYU look outside of our neighborhood,” Berman said. “It cannot accommodate their growth.”

Berman said that residents are concerned with the university’s plan to overtake the area by adding 3 million more square feet of space to its footprint by 2031, and its move to tear down buildings instead of renovating and reusing existing structures.

According to NYU, the university hopes to grow by a total of 6 million square feet, the bulk of which will be for academic space.

The school is hosting a BBQ tonight to celebrate the fall opening of the new dorm on 12th Street between Third and Fourth avenues, said Alicia Hurley, vice president for government and community engagement at NYU. St Ann’s Church previously sat on the property, and the new building is reportedly nearly 200,000 square feet. The university preserved the church’s facade in the construction of the new dorm.

Hurley said construction of the dorm was completed in January, and it has since been furnished. She said the dorm event was planned before the community meeting was set. Village community groups previously protested the size of the new dorm.

“NYU is opening up their new 26-story mega-dorm,” Berman said. “[The school’s planned expansion] is [the] equivalent of 17 more of those.”

NYU’s Hurley said she will be attending the community meeting along with members of the university’s design planning team.

According to a letter Hurley will be disseminating at tonight’s meeting, and which was obtained by The Real Deal, the university was asked to participate in the Q & A portion of the event.

In the letter, the school claims it was not informed of the agenda of tonight’s meeting and is therefore “not in a position to respond to any aspects of the presentation.”

NYU will release a comprehensive growth plan to the public in the fall, which the letter says will involve meetings with community members.

“While we have made great progress on many tracks, we have been careful to wait to release a comprehensive plan until our analyses are complete,” the letter states. The university has already held several open houses to discuss its plans.

NYU has been buying up property around the city during the past few months. In December, the university won approval to buy a church property owned by the Archdiocese of New York at 58 Washington Square South. The church has been torn down, and the new building will have academic and religious space. NYU’s Catholic Center was previously located in the building. The school also bought 726 Broadway, and a 21-story building at 23rd Street and Third Avenue, which is now a dorm.

The university is also demolishing the controversial Provincetown Playhouse building.