NYU releases revised campus expansion renderings, with scaled-back plans

Following community backlash to its initial Greenwich Village expansion plan, New York University today unveiled new scaled down renderings for a few buildings that are part of the school’s citywide growth scheme.

The university will present the revised plan for three buildings, rather than the four as initially proposed, to the public next week, and said it expects to begin the public approval process in May.

The plan, initiated in 2006 and known as “NYU 2031,” calls for 6 million square feet of growth, about half of which spans West 3rd to Houston streets, and LaGuardia Place to Mercer Street, within the heart of the Greenwich Village campus, said Lynne Brown, NYU’s senior vice president of public affairs at a press briefing this afternoon. It’s highlighted by two boomerang-shaped buildings at the center of the block north of Bleecker Street and a staggered, zipper-shaped building at the southeastern corner of the block south of Bleecker. NYU will also develop a 14-story building at the current Morton Williams supermarket site, which will contain an 800-student public school underneath seven floors of NYU student dormitories.

Noticeably absent from the revised plan was the highly-criticized 40-story, 400-foot-tall hotel on Bleecker Street, that would have towered over three existing 30-story buildings.

In the presentation the school clearly demonstrated its attempts to appeal to local residents by emphasizing the open space recreational benefits to the new plan. The university said it wants to be as transparent as possible and incorporate current residents into the design process to ensure that the space appeals to everyone. NYU will present its plans before local Community Board 2 March 21.

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“It will certainly be nicer in design, but usefulness to the community is key,” Matt Urbanski, a principal at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, who is heading up the project’s landscaping, said during the briefing. The design has renovated and reintegrated existing play areas for children, dog runs, and tree-heavy promenades. The campus, he noted, “will become part of people’s daily itinerary — their way of moving through the neighborhood.”

But the community’s chief concern was with NYU “squeezing” 2 million square feet of additional space in the two Greenwich Village blocks and overtaking public spaces, said Andrew Berman, executive director for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

In a letter sent to the community and press, he suggested the university would be better off expanding into the Financial District (where its business classrooms once stood), “where it would be contextual, where it would be welcomed, and where it would provide the 24-hour-a-day activity and mixed-use presence that neighborhood needs and is seeking.”

Brown doesn’t see the Financial District area as a viable alternative for the university’s core campus. “We’re not allergic to downtown,” she said, but only as a remote location. Financially, it makes more sense for the university to build on land it already owns, and logistically, it makes most sense to keep the bulk of the arts and sciences buildings together, she said.