Community board turns down NYU expansion plan, now faces review by Manhattan Beep

Pre-hearing, dozens of community activists protested against the school’s proposals
By David Jones | February 24, 2012 10:00AM

An ambitious plan to expand New York University’s Greenwich Village campus by 2.5 million square feet was unanimously rejected by Community Board 2 during a raucous hearing last night where residents and local community activists roundly criticized the proposal.

The board approved a resolution, which will be posted on its website this morning, blasting nearly every phase of NYU’s so-called 2031 plan, which would take nearly two decades to complete.

“People will tell you we’re not rich enough, we’re not powerful enough to take on an institution like NYU,” Brad Hoylman, chairman of Community Board 2, told attendees at the hearing.

The plan calls for a massive expansion of the school, adding two skyscrapers between the school’s existing buildings near Washington Square Park, as well as a new gym, hotel and other facilities.

NYU has said the expansion will create thousands of jobs, a new public school for the local community and is necessary to compete with elite rivals like Columbia University and other schools that are expanding their research capabilities and housing for faculty and students.

But critics charge that the proposed plan would create massive amounts of congestion in the neighborhood, as well as block sunlight and air over existing buildings in the neighborhood, where most of the properties consist of townhouses, brownstones and small retail shops.

“The university will review the resolution that Community Board 2 has put forth, but looking beyond tonight’s vote, we look forward to continuing the discussion with the broader community and the city about our academic needs,” said Alicia Hurley, vice president for government affairs and community engagement, NYU, in a statement.

Prior to the vote, dozens of community activists led by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation protested against the plan outside the hearing, which was held at the Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua, at 154 Sullivan Street, on the corner of Houston, just blocks from the NYU campus.

“We will accept nothing less than an absolute no on this plan,” Andrew Berman, executive director of the society, said at the rally.

The proposal, which has already been reviewed by several city agencies, now must be reviewed by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and the full City Council. Several local officials, including state Sen. Thomas Duane and Assembly member Deborah Glick have come out against the NYU expansion.

Aides to Stringer and several other local officials attended the hearing, but declined to immediately comment on the vote.