City, NYU, supermarket resolve Greenwich Village dispute

Morton Williams gets 13 more years before school project can displace it

NYU, City, Supermarket Resolve Greenwich Village Land Snafu
From left: NYU’s Linda Mills, Mayor Eric Adams and the School Construction Authority’s Nina Kubota along with the Morton Williams at 130 Bleecker Street (Getty, NYC SCA, NYU)

A deal has been reached between the Adams administration and New York University to extend a Greenwich Village supermarket’s expiration date by 13 years.

The agreement, which may be announced this afternoon, ends a dispute that stemmed from a flaw in NYU’s controversial 2012 rezoning.

NYU had pledged in the Bloomberg-era rezoning to relocate, if necessary, the Morton Williams supermarket at 130 Bleecker Street to the $1.2 billion Paulson Center it would build at 181 Mercer Street.

But when the de Blasio administration in 2014 would not commit to building a school on the Bleecker Street site, NYU designed the Paulson Center without a supermarket. That put Morton Williams at risk of eviction because NYU gave the city an extension through this month to claim 130 Bleecker for a school.

The 11th-hour resolution guarantees that Morton Williams can remain in place at least through 2035. The supermarket had signed a 20-year lease renewal in 2020, but a clause lets NYU terminate it to demolish the building.

“It’s a very good holiday present for the community,” said Alan Gerson, a former City Council member who helped lead an effort to preserve the supermarket. “We now have 13 years to find a proper location for any new school.”

The agreement gets NYU and the city off the hook, as displacing the supermarket would have been poorly received by the community and its leaders. A supermarket had been at the Bleecker Street site since at least the 1950s, Gerson said, while the other two in the area, a Gristedes and a Pioneer, have disappeared.

“It really would have been a food desert without this,” he said.

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Local politicians had planted the seeds for the dilemma by demanding a new school and preservation of the supermarket as part of the rezoning that NYU wanted. But the School Construction Authority was not eager to build a school in the Village.

At the same time, SCA didn’t want to disappoint Greenwich Village elected officials or give up the chance at getting valuable land for free.

Morton Williams was at a disadvantage because the rezoning documents omitted the supermarket promise, and the oversight was not discovered until construction of NYU’s new building was well underway.

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But the supermarket hired Richard Lipsky to build local support for the supermarket, and Gerson became active in the cause. Community members rallied outside the grocery last Sunday, demanding it be saved.

“It would not have happened if the community did not organize,” said Gerson. “This was about the current NYU administration honoring the word of its predecessor, and city government following proper land use policy.”

Construction of a school would have likely forced the closure of a community garden next to the supermarket.

“Greenwich Village is still very much a village, and a grocery store and a garden are some of the most valuable parts of this community’s ecosystem,” said local Council member Christopher Marte in a statement. “While we celebrate this deal, we will also keep the city to their promise of a new school.”

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