NEW YORK—City Council approved the highly controversial New York University plan Wednesday only after the balcony at City Hall Chambers was cleared because of opponents shouting “Shame on you,” and other phrases. The shouts were aimed at Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilwoman Margaret Chin, whose district includes NYU’s Greenwich Village campus.
Chin recently worked out a modification that further amended the original proposal, which was adjusted by the City Planning Commission.
The plan has four buildings within two superblocks in the area encompassed by West Third Street, LaGuardia Place, West Houston Street, and Mercer Street.
“Not everyone can be happy, but I think when this is all said and done in 2031, people will look back and say Margaret Chin led a fair and balanced, inclusive negotiation,” Quinn said.
City Council members applauded Chin for her work negotiating a reduction of 212,000 square feet—after the City Planning Commission knocked off 325,00 square feet—and for working with all sides on the issue.
The plan now stands at slightly more than 1.9 million square feet.
Yet “giving them basically 80 percent of what they asked for is not a compromise,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. Most of the land was given to NYU with the stipulation it would not be developed, Berman added.
Commotion in the balcony
As Speaker Quinn began speaking about approving the plan, the balcony, filled with Greenwich Village residents holding signs opposing the plan, erupted into cries of disappointment and anger. After several minutes, Speaker Quinn ordered staff and NYPD officers to clear the balcony.
Councilman Charles Barron, the lone vote against the plan, railed against his fellow council members.
“We’ve come here to represent the people who live in the community, not NYU,” Barron said.
None of the council members live in the village so they can’t accurately assess the situation, he said. The residents’ frustration was understandable, he said, since “they are going to live under 20 years of construction.”
That’s a concern of Patrick Deer, associate professor of English at NYU, and a father of twin 2-year-old girls.
“They’re going to be 22 when it’s over,” Deer mused. The Zipper building, the largest building at 980,000 square feet, is right across the street from where Deer and his family reside.
Deer and more than 400 other NYU faculty who make up NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan said approving the plan doesn’t represent what NYU staff want. Thirty-seven NYU departments have passed resolutions opposing the plan.
NYU President John Sexton doesn’t agree. He said in a statement that “students, faculty, deans, administrators, neighbors, and members of the local community,” were all part of bringing about “a good and thoughtful plan … that strikes an important balance.”
The balance gives NYU more educational and research facilities “while at the same time addressing the concerns of our neighbors on such issues as improving access to open space and furnishing space for a public school or other community use,” Sexton added.
The coalition against the plan said they intend to sue the city.
“The concerns of Greenwich Village residents and NYU faculty were consistently ignored. The City Planning Commission and City Council did not use a fair process—it was a cram down. Any fair judge will send this plan back to the drawing board, so we look forward to our day in court,” said Jim Walden, an attorney representing two groups opposed to the plan, in a statement.
Construction is likely to start sometime in 2014, according to an NYU spokesperson.
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