Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
Village Activists Reject NYU Expansion Plans
Sunday, December 05, 2010
On Sunday, Greenwich Village activists joined with elected officials, including Congressman Jerrold Nadler and Borough President Scott Stringer, to declare their opposition to New York University's plan to erect buildings on what is currently publicly-utilized green space. The university's proposal calls for two million square feet of new development over the next 20 years, but opponents say some of the strips of land that would be developed have become valuable community gardens, open spaces and dog runs.
Terri Cude of the Community Action Alliance on NYU 2031 argued the university should find other neighborhoods in which to expand.
"NYU, we appreciate your need to keep growing," she said, standing under the statue of former mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. "But do it where it will benefit NYC, as well as NYU. Whatever you do, there's no more room for you to do it here."
The event was organized by Community Board 2. By the estimate of one speaker, development would threaten as many as 176 trees that stand on the seven parcels of land.
According to Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the strips of land were originally intended to be part of a highway, planned by Robert Moses. The roadway would've cut directly through the heart of the Village, but was rejected by the community.
"Much as we defeated Moses fifty years ago, we will defeat NYU's plan to overbuild and overwhelm our neighborhood," Berman wrote in a statement.
The university announced last week that it wouldn't pursue another plan, to develop a 400 foot tower in the neighborhood, but in a statement last week, said that its long-term plans would also benefit the city.
"We understand opponents to NYU's growth will express their view," read the statement, from university spokesman John Beckman. "We will continue to make our case for the importance of responsible growth both to NYU and to the city's vitality. As we move forward with work on the University’s ULURP application, we think the long-term, city-wide strategy we have proposed -- which emerges out three plus years of dialogue with community groups -- provides a way forward for accomplishing it thoughtfully and transparently."
The university did not respond to specific questions about this weekend's rally. NYU is yet to initiate the months-long land-use review process, which would require approvals from the city council, Borough President Stringer and others.
Council Member Margaret Chin, who also spoke at the rally, says while she does respect NYU, "NYU has to remember, it is a university in the neighborhood, not a neighborhood in the university."
Borough President Stringer said the university had to better recognize the needs of local residents, and not simply go through the motions of public engagement.
"NYU must learn, finally, how to co-exist, not overwhelm this community," he said.