NYU's Expansion Plan

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New York University's plan to add 6 million square feet of new construction to its campus in the next 20 years, half of that in Greenwich Village, has neighborhood residents up in arms. Urban critic and journalist Roberta Brandes Gratz, author of The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs, and Vin Cipolla, President of the Municipal Arts Society, discuss what those plans mean for the Village, and how this fits in with larger, citywide development issues.

Courtesy of New York University
Courtesy of New York University
Courtesy of New York University
Proposed Bird's Eye View, looking northwest.
Courtesy of New York University
Existing view taken from LaGuardia Place, looking East at the WSV Retail.
Courtesy of New York University
Proposed view taken from LaGuardia Place, looking East to the proposed Philosophy Garden.
Courtesy of New York University
Existing view looking South through 1 Washington Square Village's driveway.
Courtesy of New York University
Proposed view looking South through 1 Washington Square Village's entrance to the Philosophy Garden.
Courtesy of New York University
Existing view taken from the corner of the former Greene Street and Bleecker Street, looking South.
Courtesy of New York University
View taken from the corner of the former Greene Street and Bleecker Street, looking South to the Proposed Greene Street Walk.
Courtesy of New York University
Existing view taken from the corner of Mercer Street and Bleecker Street, looking North.
Courtesy of New York University
Proposed view of Mercer Building, taken from the corner of Mercer Street and Bleecker Street, looking North.


Vin Cipolla and Roberta Brandes Gratz

Comments [54]

Vicki from the Super Block from NYU ground zero

I love how NYU shows the acutal photos of the super blocks in depressing black & white and the new renderings in vibrant color.
While I do think that the blocks could be improved, NYU's expansion plans are over-kill for our community. Taking public land should NOT be on the table, considering NYU pays NO real estate taxes and are one of the largest property owners in the city.

Apr. 23 2011 06:17 PM
Kate Hamilton from new paltz, formerly nyu neighborhood

NYU is not just planning to build on their property but they are planning to build on city land as well.
The Super Blocks include small strips of green that have long been used as park land by the public.

Apr. 20 2011 05:47 PM

I'm considering attending NYU in the fall and I thought some of these comments were odd. I'm comparing NYU to quality schools that have "rolling greens" and other such traditional collegiate stylings. I am attracted by this embedded and metropolitan experience.

Coming from an NYC suburb, I've grown to appreciate and enjoy the city even without knowing everything about every block. At the same time, I can say that if NYU had no housing, as one guest suggested, I would not consider coming, and I can say others would think similarly. Rather than simply a "diploma mill," NYU is placing and comparing itself with Ivies and other high-end institutions, with rankings and much of their reputation to match. Both the school and New York overall would lose many great minds and the money brought in by students and the university if NYU's growth is reversed or stymied. I can say that I nixed a few college choices I had had as the campus life was lacking due to their status as "commuter" schools.

Granted, I would hate to know that lives are being destroyed or culture eliminated to get some space. However, NYU is trying to compete. Commenter Norma referenced the international expansion of the school. Those may not be in range of Washington Square, but they will help students develop as the world gets flatter and competition expands.

Also, to clarify, NYU is not a "city university." It is a private university in a city.

Finally, I would be interested to hear an NYU official's take on the topic on the show. I imagine/expect/hope that WNYC tried to get someone on and couldn't, but I still think hearing an opposing viewpoint would be important.

Apr. 20 2011 12:37 AM
Hubert J Steed from LaGuardia Place - Greenwich Village NYC

I thought the guests were not very enlightened.

They seemed to have no objection to building skyscrapers on park strips, gardens and children's playgrounds in the heart of Greenwich Village.

Apr. 19 2011 06:31 PM
Hubert J Steed from LaGuardia Place - Greenwich Village NYC

I thought the guests were not very enlightened.

They seemed to have no objection to building skyscrapers on park strips, gardens and children's playgrounds in the heart of Greenwich Village.

Apr. 19 2011 06:29 PM
Bill Daniels from Long Island

NYU needs to advertise more that they are not only giving the neighborhood more open space, but also adding color where there was none. Just look at those pictures. Also, I believe the sunlight will be blindingly intense during the ten minutes where it's not obstructed by those architectural eunuchs.

Apr. 19 2011 02:41 PM

Thank You, L. Kanter & C. Schimmel for your comments. I often wondered about "Named Facilities" when they "Age-Out". I was an Greenwich Village Resident when NYU built the Bobst Library. As outreach NYU offered use of the Library to the Neighborhood. Did this ever happen?

Apr. 19 2011 01:50 PM
dboy from nyc

While we're at it, why don't we discuss how these same schools (NYU, Columbia University), with their ridiculously high tuitions, billion dollar endowments and enormous real estate holdings refuse to hire full time faculty to skirt the responsibility of providing nominal employee benefits. They consistently refuse to provide basic employee benefits to regular adjunct professors who typically spend 30 hours a week dedicated to their "part time" (single class) employment.

Apr. 19 2011 01:34 PM
Norma from Greenwich Village

I have been a resident of Washington Square Village for over 40 years. This is an oasis in the Village - the gardens with cherry trees. The strips on Laquardia Place are green areas devoted to trees, a community garden and a future Toddler's playground. Not any part of this area is ugly as you said Leonard. The stores are necessary - a bank, a post office, restaurants. NYU IS DESTROYING THE AREA! Can you imagine years of construction? They keep saying they need this space to be close to their campus. Is Dubai close or Shanghai or Wash. D.C.

Apr. 19 2011 12:58 PM

Really, Gaza? I think you show a huge disconnect with reality by comparing life near NYU with life in Gaza.

Apr. 19 2011 12:54 PM
Cynthia Lamb from Lower East Side

Thank you for pointing out other projects that fall under the "wipe out and rebuild" vs. "reuse existing assets." I especially like the description of neighborhoods growing over time. Such is the case with the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side. It has been grouped in with another site, the SPURA site, which the largest city-owned empty parcel in Manhattan, which is currently in the midst of development planning.

The empty parcels do, indeed, deserve to be carefully planned to provide housing and services to this quiet stretch of Delancey Street.

However, the Essex Street Market is a vibrant, viable, cultural, and historical part of the Lower East Side. It should stay in its current historical location. Presently, one of the three market buildings is a Public Market, and another of the buildings is in use by other enterprises. The third has been empty for over 15 years. At one time, the EDC talked of expanding the market into the empty portions of the market.

Please see for more information and how to help.

Apr. 19 2011 12:47 PM
Patrick from Brooklyn

Your guest states that there are 'two ways of seeing urban development in any city. The top down Moses approach and the ground-up Jane Jacobs version that integrates the existing qualities of the neighborhood.'

How can anyone argue that there are two ways of doing anything in this city? The NYU plan raises some issues, but let's not pretend that it's identical to a Robert Moses endeavor, or even for that matter, Columbia's uptown expansion. It's a disservice to everyone in this city to offer such reactionary appraisals of development at a time when the city needs new construction to drive the economy and keep the city vibrant.

Apr. 19 2011 12:43 PM

1. living in a neighborhood other than that of the school means being involved with another neighborhood, a broadening experience, and isn't that one of the goals of education?

2. although NYC has lots of colleges it is not primarily a "college" town. one of the advantages of NYU is the blend of accademic experience blends and urban experience it offers . if they turn the neighborhood into just a campus it will become more of an ordinary campus school.

Apr. 19 2011 12:42 PM
dboy from nyc

Can someone discuss the criminally high tuitions to attend these schools, their enormous billion $ endowments, in addition to these fantastic land grabs???

Who can afford to go to these schools? Why does the tuition continue to rise, wildly??? Do they really need to own these enormous swaths of the city? What do they do for the community?

Are these schools dedicated to education or real estate speculation???

Apr. 19 2011 12:41 PM
Caroline Schimmel from Greenwich, CT

Do NOT trust NYU. In the 1960s my father in law Michael Schimmel helped save the university, even got a friend to build the dorm, and was honored with his name on an auditorium. Last year John Paulson gave some millions to NYU and, without asking my family, changed the name to the Paulson Auditorium. They refused to un-name it and as a sop offered an underground passage!

Apr. 19 2011 12:41 PM
Superblock Coalition from Greenwich Village

NYU's statement that they are "giving" the community open space is specious. NYU is seeking to acquire _public_ open space and build on and under it. What they say they are "giving" to the community will be hemmed in by four buildings and turn what is now a children's playground and award-winning Sasaki garden into a hardscape with a smaller playground and some lawns and landscaping, but otherwise designed to act as a passageway between NYU's new dorm and their new and existing classrooms. That space is already available and used by the community - where's the exchange?

There is space and desire for NYU to locate in FiDi. Greenwich Village is a historic neighborhood and NYU should not be allowed to change the zoning to meet its needs, ignoring the needs of the community and history.

Apr. 19 2011 12:39 PM
John from Morningside Heights

I would like your guest Roberta to walk around the decimated neighborhood that Columbia is going to revitalize. I live in the area, and you can't even walk down some of those blocks they are so decayed. What business is she referring to?

Apr. 19 2011 12:39 PM
ann from nyc

NYU's out reach is snarky and disingenuous.

Apr. 19 2011 12:39 PM
Andrew Sichel from Manhattan

NYU has consistently built architecturally and artistically bad buildings. Currently the light fixtures included in the revamping of Washington Square , although based on historical precedent
are aesthetically once again simply bad- making Washington Square into a simulacrum of itself- Washington Square as a theme park of what Washington Square was. I would not trust NYU with any architectural work. Unlike Yale or Dartmouth NYU lacks any educational worthiness to be trusted in things related to design, public space, architecture etc.

Apr. 19 2011 12:37 PM

The speaker is pretty ignorant if he thinks large-scale urban development is a new phenomena. Columbia's current campus was a large scale development 120 years ago.

Apr. 19 2011 12:37 PM

How about comparing NYU to The New School instead of Columbia? TNS occupies the same spaces much less obviously. TNS has dorms on Wall St. and in other city areas.

Apr. 19 2011 12:36 PM
ddbk from brooklyn

i think you're missing the point in that it's not about being close to class, it's about being close to classmates.

a subway ride compared to walking across the hall is a big difference in what my college life is like.

I went to a 75% commuter school and lived on campus and on campus life vs. commuter was like going to two different schools... and I was never crashing at my friends parents place, they were always crashing at my dorm. You do the math.

Apr. 19 2011 12:35 PM
Andy from Brooklyn

I fail to see how the village is a community neighborhood. It's not a tight night residential area. It's chain stores and rich condos. Should we care if a chain-store shopping district and upperclass-condo neighborhood is changed?

As long as they respect the designated historic buildings, I'm happy to see the neighborhood transformed.

Apr. 19 2011 12:35 PM
Jasmine from Brooklyn

The comment about vicinity accounting for a vibrant university culture... I beg to differ.
I go to Cooper Union, we have a small dorm for first year students only, which feels superfluous. Distance from a rigorous day at school where everyone is committed keeps everyone sane.

Apr. 19 2011 12:35 PM
peter mitchell

On East 11th st. NYU leveled a landmarked church saving only the facade which sits stupidly and arrogantly in front of yet another tall dorm. What disrespect for the needs of the community.

Apr. 19 2011 12:32 PM
Eric from New York

It's important to realize that the Village existed as a neighborhood before NYU moved into it and over the decades began metasticizing and taking it over block by block. The Village is, and was never meant to be, an academic campus. It's not supposed to be a playground for drunken law students. They have become just as arrogant and reckless an institution as BP, Bank of America, Exxon, etc. They feel like they have the right of eminent domain and everyone else be damned. I saw fight them tooth and nail. The Village is not Gaza.

Apr. 19 2011 12:31 PM
David from West Hempstead

Your guests sound extremely conservative on this issue--cities need to expand. Some things people like are going to have to be cleared away to make room for the new.

Apr. 19 2011 12:30 PM
Anthony from East Village, NYC

NYU is impermeable to our community. I've tried including them and contacting them regarding joining open public community events here in the East Village. No response, no involvement.... if it's not NYU oriented, no press, no participation, no interest. I'd say they are not NYC or part of the East Village, rather they keep separate and isolated and they have made this increasingly a college campus... It's been tough, and sad.... and we'll do what we can to retain the village

Apr. 19 2011 12:30 PM
J Reilly

I still miss the Bottom Line, another casualty of NYU's real estate gluttony.

Apr. 19 2011 12:29 PM
BSCE from NJ

As a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, also an institution embedded in an urban neighborhood with a minimal 'campus' and no walls, I'd be curious to hear comparisons between NYU's and NU's experiences managing their growth.

Apr. 19 2011 12:27 PM
Lynne Kanter

I have lived near NYU on Thompson Street in Soho for over 35 years and have always felt they were an oppressive neighbor, as opposed to ever making any positive contribution to their surroundings. What they have done around Washington Square is egregious - knocking down Loeb Center for the hideous Skirball Center is just one example of the architectural sins they have committed and continue to commit in our neighborhood.

Apr. 19 2011 12:26 PM

Ms. Gratz says NYU is a Commuter School not deserving of (say) Dormitories. What about CCNY (the
quintessential Commuter School)? Even CCNY has Dorms. Ms Gratz is totally Ignorant of the College Experience

Apr. 19 2011 12:24 PM
Henry from Katonah

As an NYU alumnus and former employee ( 1976-1987 ) I am hearing a lot that I agree and disagree with.
I am not offended by NYU's calling the village its "campus" - - that does not have to be an exclusive term.
But NYU is so much richer than when I was there, that they will not get any contributions from me. It obviously does not need my support.

Apr. 19 2011 12:24 PM
Noel from 14th St & 6th Ave

Oh, please! Nothing stays the same and change is inevitable, especially in NYC. Why not change the village into an academic destination that an expanded NYU 'campus' would encourage? The idea that you could keep NYU as a commuter school is ludicrous in today's economic climate. And besides, the more academic people inhabit the area, the the higher the ratio of middle and upper income residents to B&T day trippers we will get. It will be good for the neighborhood businesses.

Apr. 19 2011 12:23 PM
jeffaxelrod from brooklyn

NYU already has their own transportation service.
I see healthy young students shuttled around on the the purple bus while seniors shiver in the cold
waiting for the MTA service

Apr. 19 2011 12:22 PM
Barbara Tversky from UWS

I am a college professor who spent many years at Stanford and now at Columbia, and a year at NYU. The female speaker simply does not understand campus life, either for faculty or for students. Living close to campus is essential for a vibrant university community. NYU and Columbia both suffer from the fact that faculty and students are already dispersed. In that, universities are radically different from industry.

That said, I think NYU, instead of integrating itself into the life of Village and attempting to increase the intellectual and cultural life of the village, has separated itself, a mistake both for NYU and for the Village. There are bound to be conflicts, space is limited, but there are ways, unfortunately unexplored, to turn this into a win-win situation.

Apr. 19 2011 12:22 PM
Tab from Manhattan

NYU is in compettion with other schools in the northeast and in the US in general.
In a shift in many urban univerisities, the trend toward on-campus residency grown, maybe as part of an overall sociological change in education and child-rearing.
Fordham and St. John's in NYC, and other schools have greatly expanded their on-campus residences over the last three decades.
Yale is embarking on adding two residential colleges.
This competition to have students living in close-by, "safe" neighborhoods needs to be recognized in the conversation.

Apr. 19 2011 12:21 PM
leslie roigt from East Village

outside of the immediate impact of construction in the West Village, NYU has transformed the East Village as well. Every other landlord has converted rent stabilized apartments into basically dorm room apartments. This means that buildings that used to be occupied by a very diverse community of families, elderly and yes, younger (and aging) artists are now upwards of 50% occupied by a transitory student population. (neighbors change 2-3 times a year). Yes NYC is known for its changes, but this transitory population really doesn't contribute to the community beyond one more bar appearing on the corner.

Apr. 19 2011 12:20 PM

I don't quite understand why this is an issue. Can't the local people through local government make their concerns known and do something to curb NYU's plans if they don't want NYU expansion there?

On another note or point of view, most of NYC's civil servants can't afford to live in these areas - police, sanitation, firemen, and they commute from the other boroughs and beyond. It is nice to be close to your college of course.

Finally, NYU has a decent reputation, but it is no Yale. I am sure I am not alone when I think of NYU as a 'rich kids' school, and these expansion projects will probably not help that image.

Apr. 19 2011 12:20 PM
Reba Kay from East Village

NYU students come here to experience the City, including public transportation. NYU bus service should be ended. Beside the fact that most of its buses are empty or nearly empty, it competes with our public transportation and serves the purpose.

Apr. 19 2011 12:19 PM
ann from SoHo

NYU has proceeded without calloused disregard for the neighborhood. BEWARE! They speak with forked tongue!! Look at the historic Poe House on W. 3rd! Ruined. And what happened to the Provincetown Theater? Where is our regular supermarket? It's been turned into a gigantic snack bar. Look south from Fifth Avenue. How do you like the new view, thanks to NYU and its hideous buildings? How can they be stopped?

Apr. 19 2011 12:19 PM
leslie roigt from East Village

outside of the immediate impact of construction in the West Village, NYU has transformed the East Village as well. Every other landlord has converted rent stabilized apartments into basically dorm room apartments. This means that buildings that used to be occupied by a very diverse community of families, elderly and yes, younger (and aging) artists are now upwards of 50% occupied by a transitory student population. (neighbors change 2-3 times a year). Yes NYC is known for its changes, but this transitory population really doesn't contribute to the community beyond one more bar appearing on the corner.

Apr. 19 2011 12:19 PM
Lauren from Brooklyn, ny

Wo does this woman think she is. I was an nyu undergrad and am an nyu grad student now. Nyu has hundreds of international students as well as students coming from around the country. Having student housing makes these students a community from one another plus Allows younger undergrads the opportunity for clean, safe housing and a legitimate collegiate experience. Without student housing would prevent students from developing important relationships. Honestly what is she thinking?

Apr. 19 2011 12:17 PM
Eric from New York

NYU thinks of the Village as their own private Gaza

Apr. 19 2011 12:16 PM
Melinda Hunt from Peekskill, NY

I sold my condo on 13th St. last year after NYU opened a new 22 story dorm on 12th St. that blocked the few hours of light to my studio. This new freshman dorm was in addition to two other dorms on my block on 13th St. Twenty-two stories was too tall for my block between 3rd and 4th Ave. in Manhattan

Apr. 19 2011 12:15 PM
Maude from Park Slope

I lived next to a NYU dorm in the east village for 5 years, and the students certainly didn't respect the neighborhood at all. Not that I blame the students, I had my share of drunken college evenings out of state, but I moved to brooklyn mostly because I didn't want to be in that college environment any more. (e.g. loud rowdy drunk kids etc)

Apr. 19 2011 12:15 PM
J.D. from the village

NYU has become a diploma mill, admitting almost half the people who apply. The Village is now awash in hordes of arrogant NYU visigoths, possessing that unfortunate combination of ignorance and entitlement. Real New York residents are abused by these invaders as "townies." St. Mark's Place, once a cultural center, has become a food court serving the mall rats going to NYU to party for four years.

Apr. 19 2011 12:14 PM
RLewis from the bowery

As a graduate of nyu, I've never been more disappointed in them. What they did to the Provincetown Playhouse is just unforgivable. So so sad.

Apr. 19 2011 12:12 PM

Isn't this the legacy of Manhattan from its founding, to always move and morph and change? Isn't that what people find exciting about the city--the constant change and energy?

I'm neither for nor against this project.

Apr. 19 2011 12:06 PM
Rhoma Mostel from NYC

NYU's aggrandizement against other institutions and public spaces in the Village continues with this dreadful, ill-conceived plan that will add density, destroy light and air, and rob other community institutions of their rightful public (and publicly owned -- i.e., DOT strips) space.

Apr. 19 2011 11:58 AM
Olivia from GreeNwich village

NYU has NEVER built anything in Greenwich village that respects the villages history or that benefits the community. Now they want to destroy the skyline and take away the little green space that exists. If they cared about the community they would beautify what they have instead of building two ugly ski slopes academics in between two residential buildings. They claim they want to be in Greenwich village. It is part of their promotion, but instead of honoring the architecture the low building heights they want to build high rise UGLY monsters. The assumption that it is better for the community to TAKE the external DOT green space and put it within NYU inner space is outrageous. Obviously their intention is to make a suburban style campus. Why the pretense of wanting to be in Greenwich village? Why show photos of Washington square park? The politicians better remember who votes, it's not the students at NYU.

Apr. 19 2011 02:26 AM
Susan Sarah Taylorson from New York City

On the oasis and cultural gem that a surprisingly philistine NYU is intent on destroying, along with one of the best children's playgrounds south of 3rd Street in District 2, see

Apr. 18 2011 09:13 PM
Judith Chazen Walsh from Washington Square Village

Why? Why destroy a neighbrohood,
a way of life, a community of neighbors and friends and why terrorize people with what is to come for the next 15 years?

There are viable alternatives. NYU has a transportation system which gives them
access to lower Manhattan and anywhere
in the 5 boroughs to renovate, build and
increase academics and athletics

NYU listens but chooses not to hear
NYU informs but does not re-form their plans

On this the anniversary of NYU's founding, remember that NYU was founded in Lower Manhattan

Apr. 18 2011 09:10 PM
Terri Cude from New York, NY

For more information on NYU's 2031 Plans and community response, please visit the Community Action Alliance on NYU 2031 website, representing more than 30 community groups: and "like" the CAAN 2031 facebook page to keep informed.

Apr. 18 2011 08:07 PM

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