NYU reduces expansion proposal but still doesn’t satisfy opponents

New York University has agreed to scale back its controversial expansion plans by almost 20 percent, the New York Times reported. The university will reduce the combined square footage of its four planned new buildings on the blocks surrounded by Laguardia Place and Mercer, West Houston and West 3rd streets by 370,000 square feet to slightly more than 1.9 million square feet.

The reduction would be achieved by cutting a planed 14-story public school building on the southern end of the block by seven-stories, reducing two boomerang-shaped academic buildings on the northern block by a combined 85,000 square feet. In addition, the zipper-shaped dormitory and academic building would be set farther back to leave more light for neighbors.

The modification was announced to the Times by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who helped broker the arrangement. “NYU must coexist with Greenwich Village and not overwhelm the neighborhood,” he said. “This strikes an important balance.”

It has yet to be seen whether the local community board and faculty members who have opposed the plans because it would threaten the low-rise character of the Village. But the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation released a statement saying the modifications were not sufficient.

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“This is really just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” said GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman. “A slight decrease in the size of a few buildings does not change the fact that this massive plan is fundamentally wrong for the Village, wrong for New York City, and wrong for NYU, as evidenced by the growing chorus of resolutions from NYU faculty departments opposing the plan.”

Berman said the school should instead seek expansion in the Financial District, a proposal NYU administrators previously told The Real Deal was not viable because it does not own land in the area and would prefer not to separate its arts and sciences departments among two separate locations.

“We have had a lot of support for our plan because people understand how important strong universities are for the city,” said John Beckman, a spokesperson for NYU. “Our proposals have gone through multiple changes over the years we’ve been involved in the planning process. From the beginning, our focus has been to achieve an outcome that will meet the University’s academic space needs in a way that will keep NYU strong — and we’re comfortable we’re still well on that path — while addressing the concerns of our neighbors.” [NYT]