NEW YORK—With the second vote in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure on New York University’s planned 2.4 million-foot expansion in Greenwich Village, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer issued a “conditional approval.” However, the publicity preceding and following the announcement belies the fact that the vote remains advisory, as was a previous Community Board 2 vote unanimously against the project.
The citywide expansion plan NYU 2031: NYU in NYC, calls for four new buildings on two superblocks bordered by West 3rd Street, LaGuardia Place, West Houston Street, and Mercer Street.
Stringer’s conditional approval had NYU agreeing to modify the plan though without a binding agreement. The next two votes, first by the City Planning Commission, and then City Council, may more concretely impact the project. In most cases, a commission vote against the plan equals termination. If the plan passes through the commission, the City Council must automatically review some aspects of the plan and can choose to review others.
Should the planning commission vote against the proposal; a three-quarters vote of the council would be able to keep the proposal alive.
The plan, NYU 2031, has been hotly debated, including at a recent debate organized by the Municipal Arts Society. Several persons familiar with the process have told The Epoch Times the plan will likely pass after being scaled down.
Stringer’s conditional approval includes reducing density by about 377,000 square feet down to about 2 million square feet. This will ensure that the university will provide space for a K-8 school, and preserve public land around Washington Square Village by building less underground.
The borough president has previously weighed in on expansions by Columbia University and Fordham University. He emphasized the expansions’ potential economic and educational benefits.
A host of officials joined Stringer at his office on Wednesday with varying degrees of enthusiasm for the agreement. NYU President John Sexton said the university is looking forward to working with the commission and council in the coming months.
Greenwich Village was characterized as “a fragile ecosystem” by Sexton back in 2004. He predicted it would be overwhelmed by “the proposal to put 2.8 to 3.5 million square feet in the area, or anything close to that figure,” according to task force documents from 2010. Stringer convened a task force in 2006, which spent four years exploring the proposed NYU expansion in the village.
During public meetings at the beginning of the land review process, hundreds of community members spoke out against the plan, which led to the community board vote against it.
Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, called the plan “deeply disappointing,” pointing out that the adjustments don’t address “fundamental problems” such as turning the area into a construction zone for 20 years and violating pre-existing agreements made after NYU’s last expansion. After 20 years, he fears the university will come back asking for more.
Berman’s organization and NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan announced they are retaining an international law firm to make sure public officials talk with community members and not rush the land review process.
The next step, a City Planning Commission hearing, will be held on April 25 at 10 a.m. at the Museum of the American Indian.