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NYU President Pushes for Expansion Plan at Hearing

Friday, June 29, 2012

New York University President John Sexton defended plans to increase the school's footprint in its Greenwich Village neighborhood. He spoke at a City Council public hearing on Friday that was packed with critics and supporters of NYU’s proposed expansion plans.

Sexton said the university needs to add four new buildings because “space translates into talent.”

To drive home the point, Mary Schmidt Campbell, dean of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, said her school's cramped facilities "are at a crisis point." Without the new buildings, she argued, Tisch won't be competitive with other arts schools.

But opponents of the plan said the new buildings would overwhelm the neighborhood. State Sen. Tom Duane called the nearly 2 million-square-foot expansion plan out of scale with the neighborhood and he said Greenwich Village would lose "precious open space."

While town and gown disputes are nothing new, an increasing number of NYU faculty and staff are joining with neighborhood residents to express their reservations of the proposal. About two-thirds of the university’s faculty, who responded to a survey in April, said they did not support the administration’s expansion plan:

Speaking on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show on Wednesday, faculty members said the plan to add more than two million square feet is too costly, has a murky agenda and would turn the neighborhood — where many faculty live — into a construction zone for decades.

“A critical mass of its faculty believe that this plan will bankrupt the university,” said Andrew Ross, professor of social and cultural analysis at NYU.

They worry that the costs will be passed to students.

The City Planning Commission approved the expansions plan, albeit on that was scaled down slightly — in the beginning of June.

The full Council must vote on the plan by July 27.

With the Associated Press

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Comments [5]

Sylvia from Greenwich Village

I attended the City Council sub committee meeting where Pres Sexton and his public relations people spoke. I was astounded that several women from Queens,Brooklyn and the Bronx had scripts in which they praised NYU's Dental Van. (The Dental program is funded by NY STATE not NYU!) and the hearing was about ZONING (NYU's request to change our area from residential to commercial) in our Manhattan location. Certainly we're not opposed to NYU's programs. We are opposed to their current building plans which call for 20 years of construction, 4 huge buildings, displacement of playgrounds, takeover of our PUBLIC LAND strips on Mercer Street, and putting retail shops on the first two floors of 4 residential buildings. I believe they're also going to put some benches (for seniors) along Bleecker Street as well. NYU is no longer a nontaxpaying academic institution it's a corporation run by real estate developer trustees who have no understanding of how much Villagers love their community. We shall fight them every step of the way. Down with their buildings!

Jul. 01 2012 10:18 AM
The_Pen_Is_Mightier from Manhattan

Traditionally, contentious clashes like the one sparked by NYU 2031 rage between town versus gown. This one, by contrast, pits town AND gown versus a relentlessly aggressive university administration.

In an unprecedented move, 34 Schools and Departments (including my own) have voted in favor of individual departmental resolutions, voicing their staunch opposition to NYU 2031, as currently conceived. The Departments expressing their profound concern happen to include Economics (with its 3 Nobel Prize winners) in a vote of 29-0 and the Stern Business School (by the overwhelming count of 52-3), which should tell the public something about the financial feasibility of Pres. Sexton’s 2.2 million-square-foot, $3-5 billion plan … admittedly a vague price tag, in the absence of a transparent business plan, but one far outstripping our modest endowment. By any measure, this scale and intensity of faculty opposition is extraordinary in the present context, especially among those untenured. While the wording of every departmental resolution is different, the spirit behind each one is the same: We, the NYU faculty, believe that the current administration is endangering the intellectual and fiscal health of the University, in light of the scale, unjustified purpose and cost of the planned expansion. To address this last point, who exactly will foot the bill for this two-decade-long building campaign? A: Almost certainly our increasingly indebted student body -- already the most indebted of any of our peer, private institutions (of which we also happen to be the largest in student numbers). And that is on top of one of the highest tuition rates in the country, climbing over $55,000 a year for tuition, room and board.

All of this to say: Not only will NYU 2031 inflict irreversible damage to the immediate neighborhood, but it also risks doing grave damage to NYU itself. NYU’s current prominence should not be confused with successful branding alone. Make no mistake: The lifeblood of any university and its true mission always has been and always will be its students, its alumni, its faculty. Education is not just another business, not when guided by an institution’s vision and smarts. For decades, the NYU faculty has worked tirelessly to elevate the academic reputation of an institution that we so dearly love. Many of us passed up positions at other, highly-ranked universities in order to join a promising, up-and-coming one, located in one of country’s most culturally, socially and economically vibrant neighborhoods. It is this distinctive neighborhood that has so long sustained our school – and that our students travel across states, often oceans, to join and experience. The faculty will not allow our administration to intellectually and financially bankrupt the academic community we all cherish and have worked so hard to build. Not on our watch.

Jul. 01 2012 02:47 AM
StudentDebtor from Village

If NYU wants its campus to look like Midtown or Downtown, then it should relocate to Midtown or Downtown. Maybe NYU has outgrown the Village....

Even so, the Faculity against the Sexton Plan are correct that the cost of this project is placed on students, who already pay nearly $60K to attend NYU. With that amount of cost, they will take on significant debt.

I would also like a study on how much students contribute to the economy versus a working person. I don't know how much free money a student has. I think the Village already has way too many students as it is....

Jun. 30 2012 10:35 AM
Caroline Stark from Brooklyn, NY

Universities are already much, much too expensive. Students and their families are bearing the brunt of this competitive race to constantly add to the image many urban institutions by building more and more. Are there other ways to manage their budgets and reputations than by growing physically in too excessive a way. Perhaps a suburban campus? These institutions are poor citizens of their community when they move to destroy the history and ambience of an area--especially something as historically unique as a place like Greenwich Village.

Jun. 29 2012 07:01 PM
dave sanders

maybe in 10 yrs they'll swallow up FT.Tryon park. an NYU island,run by emperor bloomberg.

Jun. 29 2012 05:31 PM

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