An eclectic mix of community activists, New York University professors and politicians came out last night to the swanky Standard East Village hotel to continue to raise funds against the university’s so-called NYU 2031 expansion plan.
Among the evening’s more colorful guests was author Fran Lebowitz, who was not shy about her feelings regarding the Sexton plan and real estate development in Manhattan in general.
“If they’re telling you 2030, it’ll be 3030,” Lebowitz told the crowd of around 100 guests. “The way to do this is, don’t start. I hope that we win because it would be good for the city and it would be good for NYU to say, you know what, we’re full.”
NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, a group that opposes the university’s push to expand by nearly 2 million square feet, hosted the event to raise money. Even though the plan for the expansion was approved by the City Council last summer in a 44-to-1 vote, the crowd was determined to win the fight against the Sexton plan.
Developer Andre Balazs, model and “Top Chef” judge Padma Lakshmi and actress Susan Sarandon sponsored the event, but none was present due to prior obligations. Lakshmi and Sarandon reside in the West Village.
Balazs, who developed the Standard East Village, donated the penthouse space and an array of wine and appetizers for the event, although it was unclear at the end of the evening how much money was raised.
“I’ve been collecting a lot of checks, so that’s good,” Linda Cronin-Gross, a spokesperson for NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, told The Real Deal.
The NYU 2031 plan has met its fair share of controversy. Recently, community members, including Lakshmi, faced off with university attorneys to argue that the expansion areas actually constitute parkland, meaning the city handed over the parks to NYU without the necessary state approval.
Another lawsuit alleged that the proposal was illegally pushed through the city approval process. And a neighborhood restaurateur also sued, claiming that the expansion of NYU’s law school — a precursor to the larger NYU 2031 development — has blocked streets, hurt business and raised bad odors in the neighborhood.
Earlier this year, a New York State Supreme Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by tenants of Washington Square Village that claimed the development would adversely alter the neighborhood.
Stephen Kagan, the former chief economist for Gov. George Pataki who lives in Washington Square Village, told TRD last night that the worst aspect of NYU 2031 would stick two buildings in the complex’s Sasaki Garden. Currently, the year-round area has two small lawns and a fountain.
“You want to see paradise in New York City, take a look at the Sasaki Garden,” he said, noting that his unit overlooks the greenery.
An NYU spokesperson did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Sal Albanese — an unsuccessful mayoral candidate who claimed to not take any donations from real estate developers — was also present, along with New York City public advocate candidate Letitia James.
“I recognize that all of you are here to protect the character of the community and I look forward to working with you as you go forward,” James told the crowd.
A sitar player and Village resident serenaded the crowd after the speeches concluded and guests managed to tear themselves away from the terrace and unobstructed city views.