The Debate Over NYU's Expansion Plan

Monday, March 26, 2012

New York University is the latest city institution to evoke controversy with its ambitious expansion plan, which would more than double the amount of density on two Greenwich Village area superblocks. Vin Cipolla, president of the Municipal Art Society, Brad Hoylman, Chair of Community Board 2, and Mark Crispin Miller, an NYU faculty member, discuss what the plan means for the city, for Greenwich Village, and for NYU faculty and students. The Municipal Art Society is hosting a panel discussion on the merits and drawbacks of the plan on March 27.

Source: NYU 2031
NYU’s proposed development site (superblocks).
Source: NYU 2031
NYU’s proposed site plan.
Source: NYU 2031
NYU’s proposed site plan (3D schematic).
Source: NYU 2031
NYU’s proposed buildings in context.
Source: Municipal Art Society
Map showing neighborhood building heights and proposed NYU building heights.
Source: Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination
Map of area currently underserved by public space.
Source: Municipal Art Society
7. Mercer-Houston dog run.
Source: Municipal Art Society
Buildings located along western side of LaGuardia Place.


Vin Cipolla, Brad Hoylman and Mark Crispin Miller

Comments [31]

NYU Student from East Village

In NYU's promotional video a science teacher highlights the need for space, citing a need larger research equipment etc. As a studio art major, I can vouch for a dire need for space in an ill-equipped, too crowded building. I wonder how a new dormitory to house 1,400 freshmen helps solve these issues. Now we can have bigger classes in our too small classrooms... If we're going to spend millions of dollars on construction projects, why don't we just renovate/improve the buildings that we have? Or at the very least build buildings that house resources that we actually need--not just more students. Yes, more students mean more $$$ but it also means lower selectivity and therefore less prestige. I'm glad they care so much about things other than their wallets (sarcasm...)

May. 01 2012 10:05 PM
Nathan Newman from New York

Although my bias is more density in NYC of almost any kind is good. More students at NYC is fewer students at some suburban campus driving cars contributing to global warming.

All low density zoning decisions in NYC are decisions to help kill the p,abet since NYC residents use one half to one third the energy of non-NYC folks. And less housing means more pressure driving up housing costs (although slightly less of an issue with NYU).

People who don't move to New York City don't disappear; they just add to sprawl in areas without good public transportation. There is an elite NIMBYism running through this whole discussion, where people privileged to have the wealth (or the luck of a rent-controlled apartment) to live in the heart of Manhattan want to block the ability of additional people to live there. NYU lies at the heart of the city with multiple transit lines servicing it and it should be one of the densest places on earth, yet the zoning rules continue to block higher-density construction.

That just drives up housing costs and hurts the environment by pushing people away from an area with strong public transit to areas where they need to drive. While there are no doubt issues of preserving public park land that are important in this discussion, that seems to get lost in a far larger misguided attack on greater density-- density that is good for working families and good for the environment.

Mar. 27 2012 08:49 AM

superf88 -

Agreed. An elitist and asinine comment.

Mar. 27 2012 08:48 AM

This show asks some great questions and gets to the point of the issues about economics and greenery and community resources. NYU has a no concern for anyone... this is a devastating plan.

Mar. 27 2012 07:12 AM
Debbie from Queens

What about the community garden on La Guardia? What is to become of this sliver of peaceful contemplation? Birds, butterflies, trees and flowers create a small oasis and a much needed respite to the busy city. No gardens or green areas should be sacrificed for any kind of building - not even a university. Didn't Socrates teach under a tree?

Mar. 26 2012 11:23 PM

For Susan from Greenwich Village, see

Mar. 26 2012 11:00 PM
Gail Linsenbard, PhD from Vero Beach, FL

I left my full time academic appointment at NYU two years ago for many reasons, not the least of which was because I was so sickened by NYU's relentless and inexorable trajectory toward eclipsing the value of higher education in the world today. The intractable greed and indifference to the impact its policies have on people's lives and the natural environment is numbing. As Marx noted long ago, capitalism will not rest until it has extended its tentacles into every department of human life and suffocated the life blood of humanity. Yes, NYU has become "just a corporation" pursuing profit at any cost. I sympathize with my former neighbors in the Village. Admittedly, my career path has been inordinately difficult since I left NYU, but I do believe I made the right decision ethically; as a philosopher who tries to at least approximate the ideals I teach in the classroom, it was indeed difficult to work and live in the midst of such hypocrisy.

Mar. 26 2012 09:27 PM
Norman Oder from Brooklyn, NY

Based on Mr. Lopate's questions, he seems unaware that the Municipal Art Society, after offering some worthwhile criticism of the Atlantic Yards plan (mainly from an urban design perspective), is now sitting out the Atlantic Yards controversy.

The MAS helped found the coalition BrooklynSpeaks, which practiced what I've called a "mend-it-don't-end-it" posture, in contrast to the main opposition coalition, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB).

But when BrooklynSpeaks finally went to court--in a case that was consolidated with a similar case filed by DDDB--the MAS left the coalition. More here:

That case, by the way, challenged the state's failure to study a 25-year buildout of Atlantic Yards. While a judge at first ruled in favor of the state and developer Forest City Ratner, she later reversed herself, ordering the state to conduct a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement. An appeal was heard Feb. 14, and a decision should come in April.

More here:

Norman Oder
Atlantic Yards Report

Mar. 26 2012 05:52 PM
Glen Milstein, Ph.D. from Greenwich Village

The question before the citizens of New York is: Should we give up control of public land in Greenwich Village to a private institution for its private use?

New York University has requested that it be allowed to spend the next 20 years constructing 2.5 million square feet (an Empire State Building) in grossly out of scale buildings, that will do harm to the health and well-being of New York’s citizens by darkening our streets, and stagnating our air.

NYU’s request strikes at the heart of our local representative democracy. Although NYU claims to be building upon its own “footprint”, NYU cannot carry out these proposals unless our own elected representatives grant NYU control of public land as well as access to deed restricted air rights. Such access would destroy public playgrounds, gardens and a dog run, all controlled and nurtured by local residents.

Specific details of this destruction–with no enforceable obligation by NYU to provide new open space–are found in a report of Community Board #2 (

Mar. 26 2012 04:30 PM
Howard Negrin from Washington Place

First, I'd like to express my gratitude to Leonard Lopate for airing this issue which is of such vital importance to residents of the Village. However, it was somewhat disappointing there was no discussion of that portion of the NYU 2031 plan which deals with the so-called "Loft Blocks" a short distance north of the superblocks, where the proposal is centered. The issue was raised on the program but a temporary memory lapse by Brad Hoylman, who nevertheless joins residents in opposition to this part of the plan, prevented listeners from learning some details. Briefly, NYU proposes changing the current residential zoning by creating a commercial overlay that would permit the university to establish retail stores in its academic buildings. One irony is that a university that proposes a thoroughly destructive transformation of the superblocks because of its supposedly desperate need for space is willing to use some existing space for distinctly non-academic purposes. New retail is neither needed in an area surrounded by retail shops on all sides, nor is new competition welcomed by existing merchants, and residents strongly oppose this effort which threatens our quality of life. Whatever rationale for this proposed change NYU may claim, it is painfully obvious that the university is simply attempting to misuse the rezoning process to exploit the commercial potential of its academic buildings.

Mar. 26 2012 03:56 PM
EVresident from NYC

As a resident of the Village for over 20 years, I have lived through construction projects that destroyed the quality of life of the people in the immediate area of the construction zone. Mature trees were killed, and noise, dust, and fumes compromised the health of many. Dangerous cranes loomed over our pedestrian walk ways and caused great concern for the residents of old buildings adjacent to the site The project took about one year. The new high rise has destroyed our area of the neighborhood, as well as increased traffic, noise pollution, and light pollution. This is only one building and it took approximately one year to complete. I can't imagine what the Sexton 20 year plus plan will do to the area, its resident's and the nature that barely has a chance to exist in the Village now. For those who say, "this in New York City, deal with it" must realize that not all of NYC is Midtown. We chose to live in this neighborhood because of the scale and lifestyle.

Mar. 26 2012 03:21 PM
A. S. Evans from Greenwich Village

So how will NYU pay for the unfunded NYU Expansion Plan 2031? Some interesting scenarios.

A. NYU doesn't have the money to build, and thus, bankrupts the University. Now all that prime real estate around Washington Square Park can be bought dime on the dollar from and by the banking and real estate heavy NYU Board of Trustees. Conflict of interest?

B. Wealthy donors, like the Koch Brothers, contribute money to the NYU 2031 Expansion Plan and in return dictates their version of pedagogy policy. Resulting in the diminishing of freedom of diverse voices and biased research. Enacting their "flat earth" policies?

C. Impoverish NYU students with crushing student debt loans? Jeopardizing the intellectual and financial future of our country.

D. All of the above. Leaving NYC taxpayers having to yet again bail out the rich 1%?

Mar. 26 2012 02:29 PM

People will pay big bucks for a prestigious education and a chance to have an iconic Greenwich Village life experience no matter where they end up living and working. NYU wants to make more of this available to sell to people willing to fork over the money. This is the nature of capitalism. Maximum return on investment, minimum concern for the quality of life for the people of NY. No different from Citibank, Duane Reade, Home Depot, Apple selling iPads, Olive Garden, Goldman Sachs. Residents have to fight back HARD if they want their quality of life taken into consideration at all.

Mar. 26 2012 02:14 PM
pliny from soho

Thank you for devoting time and attention to this important issue.
You might also look into Hudson Square Rezoning
which promises another Trump style building
on 6th Ave and Grand street i believe.

Mar. 26 2012 02:13 PM
Fishmael from NYC

Why do your guests keep referring to downtown brooklyn as a site for NYU to expand? Don't all of the environmental hazards, and other negative factors, apply there, where people also live?

Mar. 26 2012 01:58 PM
Ernie from UWS

These guys are killing me. Yes, NYU has a series of bad policies .... but by throwing everything possible issues in to the soup, they are weakening the argument. Say it simply, we don't want more big buildings in the village.

BTW --- ADJUNCTS are the backbone of NYU and without them, the entire school would collapse.

Mar. 26 2012 01:54 PM
D from Manhattan

Any Koch brothers money behind all of this?

Mar. 26 2012 01:54 PM

IMHO one of the good things about NYU has been the way it integrates into the city instead of being an isolated campus. Life in NYC almost been part of the curriculum. This plan seems to work against that.

Mar. 26 2012 01:54 PM

While we're at it, let's ask why Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University takes a nearly $2 MILLION salary.

Bollinger also sits on the board of the NY Fed!!

Mar. 26 2012 01:52 PM

Adjunct may be cheap but it's NOT "unqualified"!!!

How do you think these Korporate® universities can afford these immoral land grabs???

Mar. 26 2012 01:48 PM
D Oratowski from Brooklyn

Residents of Greenwich Village who are concerned about the impact of years of construction on their quality of life need only look at the experience of Brooklynites who live around the Atlantic Yards project. Dust, noise late into the night, and compromised air quality are regularly documented by the community on a website started by residents.

Last year, community groups sued the State of New York and Forest City Ratner, arguing that the extension of the build-out from ten years to twenty five was never studied in an EIS. The plaintiff won their case last summer; the defendants have appealed and decision is expected this spring.

Mar. 26 2012 01:45 PM

On the backs of kids and their families trying to get an education!!!


Go Korprate Eduucation®!!

Mar. 26 2012 01:41 PM

i heard your guest mutter, "some of my best friends are adjuncts" -- hilarious, leonard your show is priceless, bravo again (as well as for standing up for nyu adjuncts, who are often overqualified and ALWAYS underpaid)

Mar. 26 2012 01:37 PM
Suzanna Riordan from Brooklyn

I teach at Baruch College and various other colleges, as an overworked and underpaid adjunct. I echo what Leonard just said--I'd love to continue on this path to do so at NYU.

Mar. 26 2012 01:35 PM
Susan from Greenwich Village

The truth is that the two blocks in question are cold, uninviting, and out of character for Greenwich Village as is. That's not to say that I favor the proposed changes.

Mar. 26 2012 01:34 PM
Laura from Brooklyn, New York

Your guest's critique of taking on billions of dollars of additional debt touches on a significant problem in higher education. One of the reasons student debt levels are so high is because tuition increases are needed in order to fund major building campaigns at schools across the country. Do students actually need new buildings in order to receive an excellent education? Shouldn't money be put into teacher salaries and other resources that have a greater impact on the quality of a student's education?

Mar. 26 2012 01:33 PM
john from office

The clash between the well educated and wealthy vs. the well educated and wealthy. Note that Columbia had no problem with their project in the Upper West side, or west Harlem.

Mar. 26 2012 01:27 PM

I want to know why NYU (which is the largest (in terms of students) private university in the country) needs to expand to support even more students and staff because

1. NYU can't even provide adequate financial support to its current batch of students. There had been several widely published articles of students in considerable debt from NYU.
2. NYU's alumni giving is very low (about 11% according to WSJ). Instead of providing a higher quality experience to its students, it seems that NYU is accepting more students and hoping a big donor will come out of it (which would explain their Abu Dhabi campus).

Mar. 26 2012 12:17 PM
Rhoma Mostel from South Village

Please ask Brad Hoylman and Mark Crispin Miller to address why the NYU 2031 is a disaster for the local residents and for NYU faculty, students, and workers as well. And why is it necessary for NYU to ask for commercial rezoning in a residential area -- is it an educational institution or part of the university-real-estate complex that is intent on destroying what is left of the individuality of our Greenwich Village neighborhood?

Mar. 26 2012 09:33 AM

The NYU 2031 Plan calls for 20 years of continuous construction in a residential neighborhood in the middle of Greenwich Village.
- Requiring the use of publicly-owned space.
- Requiring rezoning from residential to commercial (midtown-like density).
- Subjecting the residents to 20 years of dirt, dust, pollution, noise, traffic, trucks and congestion.
- Building an additional 2.5 million square feet in four gigantic buildings in an already congested neighborhood.
- Removing, light, trees, green space, playgrounds, and gardens from the neighborhood.
Twenty years is a long time in the life of a person. The three year olds in my building will be twenty-three when this is finished. Maybe their parents should move away. Maybe they can’t because no one wants to buy an apartment in a construction zone.
The community is against this plan. The local Community Board is against this plan. NYU faculty, alumni and students are against this plan. The academic heart of NYU is against this plan.
Several key officials, including Councilmember Margaret Chin and City Council President Christine Quinn are “studying” the plan. They’ve been studying it for a while and have yet to take a stand.
On the other hand, Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick and State Senator Thomas K. Duane know that the NYU 2031 Plan is wrong. They are fighting it.
You see, this plan can only happen if public officials approve it. Why would a sane, humane and ethical public official support this?
I don’t know.
But I will support, respect and vote for any elected official who votes against the NYU 2031 Plan.
And if the plan is approved I will have 20 years where every day I will be reminded to vote out of office anyone who voted to approve.
I believe in the democratic process. I invite my elected officials to substantiate that belief by their actions.

Mar. 24 2012 09:48 AM
Martin Greenstein from Greenwich Village

I would like to know if any of the politicians that will be involved in making a decision on whether this plan is approved have received or will receive campaign contributions from the NYU trustees that are working with Sexton to get this plan approved. I believe many of the trustees are real estate developers. With Stringer and Quinn about to run for Mayor I’m concerned the real decision with be whether they need the votes of the residents affected by this expansion or if they are more concerned about financing their campaigns.

Even if expansion is necessary, I don’t believe the village needs a hotel and it certainly doesn’t need more retail to add to the empty storefronts that exist throughout the neighborhood. If I may share a comment made by an aging resident at one of the many meetings I have attended, “Why is an unborn NYU student more important than the residents of the community”. Twenty years of construction and the loss of open space and light is going to devastate the quality of life in one of the most beautiful and beloved neighborhoods in this city.

Mar. 24 2012 09:28 AM

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