by Lisa Delgado
Event: Land Use Education Forum on NYU Plans 2031
Location: Center for Architecture, 08.04.10
Speakers: Scott M. Stringer, Manhattan Borough President; Jo Hamilton — Chair, Community Board 2; Brian Cook — Director of Land Use, Planning, and Development for Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer
Sponsors: Borough President Stringer; Council Member Chin; Community Board 2
NYU’s controversial plan for a major expansion, NYU 2031: NYU in NYC, will have significant ramifications on the architectural fabric of the nearby neighborhood. The university’s proposal is preparing to go through ULURP, and a large number of community activists are planning to fight the expansion plans in Greenwich Village. NYU 2031 calls for around six million square feet of new university space, about half of which would be in neighborhoods near Washington Square Park.
The university’s plans for new buildings in two superblocks slightly south of the park, known as University Village and Washington Square Village, drew some of the strongest criticism. “The proposed expansion of NYU 2031 will be the biggest project this neighborhood has seen probably since the 1950s, when Robert Moses used urban renewal to actually create the superblocks — those very same superblocks that NYU now wants to build on,” said Jo Hamilton, chair of Community Board 2. She and many others voiced concerns about the university’s proposal to build a new fourth tower (slated for faculty apartments and hotel space), among the three landmarked I.M. Pei-designed Silver Towers on the southern superblock, which is bounded by Bleecker and Houston Streets, and LaGuardia Place and Mercer Street.
While some criticized the planned tower’s height (nearly 40 stories), Hamilton implied that any addition to Pei’s design would be sure to disrupt its sense of balance. “This complex was carefully designed years ago by a world-renowned architect with the idea of creating visual interest and an eye for balancing the special proportions between soaring height and open land,” she remarked.
The discussion was inevitably one-sided, since no NYU representatives were among the speakers; the overall tone was one of a strategy meeting as neighborhood activists prepared for battle. But like a true politician, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer emphasized the inevitability of compromise. “Some of this has to get negotiated,” he said. “We’re going to have to think strategically about how we protect the needs and the aspirations of our community.”
Lisa Delgado is a freelance journalist who has written for Oculus, The Architect’s Newspaper, Blueprint, and Wired, among other publications.