HDC on the NYU Expansion Plan
Statement of the Historic Districts Council
June 29, 2012
Regarding the New York University expansion plan
The Historic Districts Council is the advocate for New York City’s historic neighborhoods. HDC stands with the Greenwich Village community leaders, residents, preservationists and others in opposing New York University’s plans to expand in the designed open space and low-rise areas around Washington Square Village and University Village.
The plan would lift long-standing neighborhood zoning protections, open-space preservation requirements, and urban renewal deed restrictions in order to allow the university to build over 2 million square feet of space. This would tip the balance of this part of the Village from a low-rise, diverse neighborhood into a towering mass owned and run by a single entity. While the ownership issues are beyond the Council’s oversight, the owner is now requesting permission to expand exponentially, and in doing so, invites scrutiny into this plan’s broader effects on the life of the neighborhood and city. The effect will be monumental – in every negative sense of the word.
The proposed new development will blot out open space and hem in the already large towers of Washington Square Village and University Village. One of the few things that ameliorates the effect of the existing towers are the one-story structures and ample open space around them, which creates a precarious livable balance. While it may be argued that the tower-in-the-park model is out of context in Greenwich Village, removing the park for more towers certainly does not make the situation better. Rather, this plan will destroy this area’s character, burying it under bulk. These new buildings will serve as monuments to the university’s hubris and markers to a soon-to-be vanished neighborhood, transformed from a living part of the city into an all-but-gated private compound. This is not a sustainable choice for the long-term health of the area and it is not what this historic neighborhood should be become.
The protections and guidelines governing the development of the area were put into place for a reason. They have barely succeeded in retaining the urban character of the area in the face of the university’s voracious real estate development appetite. This proposal seeks to dismantle these guidelines and lend brick to the university’s development fantasies. If the university must expand to prosper, then it must look to areas where there’s room to expand. This plan will not build up this section of the Village, it will break it.
Please don’t let this happen.