Writers on NYU's Expansion

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

As the New York City Council prepares to vote on the controversial NYU 2031 expansion plan, a group of writers and artists, many of them longtime residents of Greenwich Village, has banded together to publish a book of essays, photos, and drawings, titled While We Were Sleeping: NYU and the Destruction of New York, to express their opposition to the project. Novelist Peter Carey, poet and playwright Jessica Hagedorn, and playwright John Guare talk about the impact NYU’s proposed expansion plan on Greenwich Village.


Peter Carey, John Guare and Jessica Hagedorn

Comments [26]

Bob from West Village

Rhona's message hints at a crucial question that was not raised on the program. Who are the people behind the expansion? Their names, occupations, positions or not on the board and what, if anything, they have to gain. Listening to the writers and the professor, it would seem that no one is for the plan. But the City Council just approved it. Again, this was done by people, not boards. Give their names and make them accountable. If there's a conflict of interest, make it known. Loudly and persistently!

Jul. 26 2012 02:00 PM

Those who defend the free-market "right" of NYU to expand have no idea how HUGE NYU is, and how much it has already anschlussed the Villages. Do a map, coloring NYU's vast properties purple, and you will be shocked. The only non-NYU building left around Wash. Sq. Park is Judson Church (thank god). NYU already has a massive presence here. Any more, and you can say goodbye to anything else--the Villages will be just another college town.

They also have no idea of NYU's utter disregard for the Village and its residents. You can't trust NYU to build anything that isn't out of character and UGLY. Just look at the incredible wasted space and sheer ugliness of "Suicide Central," the Bobst Library, and the "Lighthouse." Just look at what NYU did to W. 3rd St., including the Poe house (they left a faux facade plastered into the building that replaced it, and then cynically held a bunch of short-lived Poe-centered events).

Look at Bleecker/Macdougal--how much MORE honky-tonk can the Village take, and not be better known as NYU-ville. Not to mention, the porn/tattoo shops along 6th Ave.

GV and the EV are physical and cultural landmarks, attracting tons of tourists and residents and $$ every year.

As for rents/prices, virtually all Manhattan south of 125th is out of normal range. The Villages were not always out of reach. Think rent is high in GV? Try Tribeca! Can't there be one area that holds on to our rich, illustrious history without being paved over?

Along these lines, some think the 2031 plan is actually a real estate land grab.

And sure, let NYU go out to the boroughs, out where there is room to build without destroying "the sky and the gardens," bringing students/faculty/new life and commerce, and, were they smart, enhancements to the community. Why should their investments be centered on the Villages? BECAUSE STUDENTS DON'T ATTEND NYU SO THEY CAN LIVE IN CANARSIE. Academic excellence be damned: NYU well knows their demographic.

These objectors are like those who fought Jane Jacobs, who also fought to save the Village--she didn't fight so NYU could demolish it, instead of Robert Moses. She'd be horrified.

Worst, these objectors seem to have no idea, except this radio show, that something's going on here. Do a little research, please!

Jul. 24 2012 02:49 PM
I Titzbaum from Tribeca

This is nothing more than a land-grab by the trustees of NYU, many of whom represent big real estate interests. The NYU administration is pursuing rich, tuition-paying students to make money. They only need space because they admit too many students chasing those tuition dollars.

The real culprits here are Bloomberg and Quinn. Bloomberg just has no appreciation for the character of NYC and loves development, and Quinn needs big real estate to finance her mayoral campaign.

It's incredible that she would sell the Village down the river for personal gain.

Jul. 24 2012 02:08 PM
kt from Bklyn, NYC

I'm a native New Yorker and an NYU grad. I romanticized the Village in my pre-teen and teenage years because of what it represented: free-spirit artists roaming the streets painting and strumming guitars, bohemian style that was authentic and not co-opted the way it is now and I could go on. And as much as I thank NYU and its faculty for giving me a great education and a wonderful 4 years of undergraduate life I do lay blame on the NYU powers that be that continues to do whatever it pleases and take over the Village however and wherever it pleases. But I also think that the "mall-ization" of our city and crazy overt & over-real estate commercialization is also to blame. When I went to NYU i took an amazing Jazz Appreciation class & it was actually held at the Village Gate (!)--amazing. The Village Gate is no longer, I believe it's a CVS! Seriously. When I was 14, I came into the city with my friends from the outer boroughs to shop at the cool record stores (LPs!), Unique Thrift Store and Canal Jean Co in order to buy $25 men's wool coats & used Doc Marten-esque boots and striped tights. As we all know, those store are no longer with us (I think they've become some club-music thumping retail behemoths usually found in "traditional" malls). So I think that NYU is doing what every other business is doing--making money. I don't excuse this sort of money-making interest machine but this is what our grand city has become. It's unfortunate that NYU is no different from big mall stores/businesses, as I used to think of them as not only being an educational institution but a cultural one as well, and to be stewards of the historic and amazing area they are privileged to be in, the Village. But when you ask for tuition of $20,439 per year, the situation is what it is (and "this" is depressing). I'm not even saying there needs to be a return to junkies and hookers a la Times Square circa 1982 but why does that have to be the alternative? I might have been young in 1982 but I remember my fellow New Yorkers complaining about that NYC too. I think it's the forever battle we cities have between commercialization and gentrification vs.other (neighborhood authenticity etc). And in these polarized times, I sometimes fear we won't figure it out.

Jul. 24 2012 02:04 PM
ann from Manhattan

This monster plan is nothing more than NYU Board of Trustees developers chomping at the bit to develop this very prime, and locally precious, open space.

Think about this: If NYU ultimately doesn't use this land, they'll just sell it to the highest bidder. What's to stop them?

We have to stop them NOW.

Jul. 24 2012 02:04 PM
NYU Prof from NYC

There is nothing old fashioned or elitist about wanting to live in a place with some kind of human scale: a little light, sky and trees.

We don't have to let the Rudin/Tisch/Liptons of the world rob us:

Jul. 24 2012 01:54 PM

While I appreciate the concern these individuals have for their neighborhood, unfortunately they also exhibit a sense of entitlement about their neighborhood and a classic "NIMBY" attitude.

Almost every proposed alteration to any aspect of public infrastructure in NYC receives immediate and fierce opposition. The restoration of Washington Square is a classic example; the city proposed relatively minor changes to its layout as part of the restoration, and met with a great deal of hostile (and legal) opposition.

Institutions do occasionally grow and need more space, and it's going to happen somewhere in the city. It isn't really feasible to relocate NYU Law to Long Island City -- and if they tried, then why wouldn't the residents of THAT neighborhood would have just as much reason to object to a large institutional presence as those in the Village?

NYU may not have taken sufficient neighborhood input in their recent plans, but it would be difficult for them to wade through the inevitable resistance to any change. NYU, as a large institutional presence, also winds up being a convenient punching bag and proxy for the forces of change.

Even if NYU built nothing larger than 3 stories, the Village would have and will change. Such is the nature of cities. Neighborhoods, populations, buildings, parks, businesses are all dynamic -- and need to be dynamic in order for a city to be alive.

We cannot dip the Village in amber, and hope that it will stay the same for year after year, decade after decade, century after century.

Jul. 24 2012 01:46 PM

I'm not impressed by this type of journalism... Why have 3 guests all with the same viewpoint?? Where is there a counter-point? I thought this was public radio? At least on PBS you will often get differing opinions.

I personally LOVE old architecture - but I also know it's important that institutions like NYU and Columbia (and the various hospitals) expand to keep the city's economy vibrant. Education and healthcare - along with high technology research are the major forces for the 21st century economy. Cities change... they are no longer for major manufacturing... only niche manufacturing.
Does NYU need all that space??? I haven't the slightest idea - and because all the guests were on one side of the topic I haven't learned enough to make a proper comment. I do know the Village is the home of NYU and to most ppl (including out of towner's) the two are inseparable. NYU's engineering school was the current campus of Bronx Community College. Suppose that change didn't take place - where would BCC have ended up???

Jul. 24 2012 01:43 PM
Frank from NYC

In the 1970's NYU abandoned a wonderful campus in the Bronx to expand in the Village. Maybe they should go back to the Bronx.

Jul. 24 2012 01:36 PM
Bill from UWS

What a cranky, quirky group of agitated old villagers!

Jul. 24 2012 01:34 PM
Rhoma from Greenwich Village

John Guare is right, as are Jessica Hagedorn and Peter Carey. NYU has no sense of the sacred. If it did, it would not seek to destroy the Sasaki Garden, the LaGuardia Corner community garden, the playground and other amenities that make current life on the superblocks a lot more pleasant for the people who live there and the many who pass through there daily.
These writers and the faculty (40% of whom live on the superblocks) are correct in saying that passing this horrible NYU 2031 plan is the destruction of the character and history of the Village. It is SEXTON'S FOLLY, a grandiose plan hollow at its core, backed by the real-estate developer-trustees, and OPPOSED almost unanimously by the NYU Faculty, the community, and unanimously by the Community Board.
Unfortunately, the City Planning Commission under Amanda ("let them eat dust") Burden and the developer-trustees and the bought-and-sold City Council members understand nothing of what they are doing, and are condemning the local and faculty residents to twenty years of construction and noise and environmental and health stress. Welcome to Dubai on the Hudson, an act of gross stupidity, built over the bodies of all the rest of us.

Jul. 24 2012 01:34 PM

My own beef with NYU new buildings(my alma mater)is how ugly cheap and souless they are. Witness the 14th St yellow brick eyesore housing Trader Joes ... what has happened to the civic impulse toward beauty?

Jul. 24 2012 01:33 PM
reba from East Village

It was mentioned that NYU was out of touch with its own students.

Another, related example...

Students come to experience NYU, public transport and all. THey DO NOT RIDE the NYU buses.

Once the buses had clear glass windows, not they are tinted. Why? Because students to experience NYC but be sheltered from it and surrounded by NYU-only.

NYU unnecessarily adds to traffic congestion.

Jul. 24 2012 01:33 PM
J. Bono from Chelsea

Balance is a great idea. That's why NYU and the City Council should have embraced an open process for getting input and feedback. Instead they came with a massive proposal and then let city officials chip away tiny pieces so they could pretend to compromise.

Christine Quinn and Margaret Chin ignored the Green Plan proposed by faculty and community groups. They sold us out, their own constituents! Join us at the rally tomorrow at 1:30pm at the City Hall Council Chamber. And visit for more info.

Jul. 24 2012 01:32 PM
Ruth from Inwood

It's bad enough that the Village is completely out of a normal person's price range, at least I can visit and go to restaurants and take lovely walks.

Don't ruin it!

Thanks to the writers.

Jul. 24 2012 01:28 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

What Mr. Guare is talking about the authentic quality of the village is true of the entire city, particularly say Times Square. People -- tourists, USED to come to NYC to see something unique and authentic.

Now they come for the artificial, Disney-Mall that Times Square has become. Same for much of the rest of the city.

Bring back the pimps, hookers, druggies, and peepshows! At least that was real!

(Part of the homogenization is also attributable to the takeover of acres of our town by the hipster-chic. They oughtn't to be excused either.)

Jul. 24 2012 01:27 PM
P. Ryan from Brooklyn

A balance of nostalgia and practicality is clearly needed on this issue. The example given by one of the guests of Rome seems odd given Rome, while remarkable in its breadth of anitquities and architecture, simultaneously feels spatially and architecturally stagnant leading to citizens of the city to frequently express frustration over the inability to move forward and frequently flee the city core which seems designed for the image of Rome as a tourist dfestination rather than Rome as a vibrant, changing urban city. This is perhaps a good analogy for their previous Burllesconni administation

M Kimmelman (NYTIMES) made good suggestions in his well researched article for trying to achieve balance without stagnation.

Jul. 24 2012 01:26 PM

If you can't build more apartments in the Village, it'll just get more expensive as rich people bid the existing ones up. I make a very good salary and can't remotely afford the Village. Why should the city government use its power to prevent building more apartments there, so anyone on a reasonable salary could actually afford to live there? Especially a writer. I don't know any writers who make remotely enough to afford $4000/mo. or whatever.

Jul. 24 2012 01:26 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Take a look at the monstrosity built on the former parking lot at 217 Houston Street, directly next to the Mercury Lounge and across the street from Katz's delicatessen.

There now is a 10 story glass and steel building TOTALLY OUT OF CHARACTER from the 1880+'s brownstones that make up the Lower East Side.

The Lower East Side should be Landmarked and I would demolish all the new construction that sprouted up.

Jul. 24 2012 01:25 PM
don from NJ

Nice nostalgia book, but give it up you ninnies! You sound like the NJ fools who liken antiseptic,wealthy towns like Red Bank to "a little Greenwich Village". The Village has only been a state of mind for,like, forever now. NYU is simply emblematic of the piggish nature of NY power brokers.
You want to keep the Village, but the Paul Mazursky "Next Stop.." DVD!!

Jul. 24 2012 01:25 PM

This is kind of like listening to those really rich women debate just how it is that women can or cannot have it all. We'd all like to live in the Village and fight the power to preserve the Village. Most of us NYers live in the outer boroughs where apparently Mr. Guare thinks (like Rome) we should tolerate the high rises and skyscrapers....because um we don't appreciate the sky and the gardens??

Jul. 24 2012 01:24 PM

After what NYU did to Poe House and Provincetown Playhouse, anyone who believes them now is a fool.

Jul. 24 2012 01:09 PM

Opponents of the plan released a new viral video today that targets City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. She is pushing this massive plan through the City Council and betraying her own constituents! We won't forget her stance on this issue next November when she wants our vote! Watch the "Mogul Mike - Christine Quinn" video and join the fight at

Jul. 24 2012 12:57 PM
Bobby G from East Village

The opponents of this NYU expansion proposal are misdirected in my opinion.

This part of the Village has already been leveled and rebuilt with high rises. The real issue should be that the increased capacity of the proposed new facilities be matched one to one with housing for that increased capacity on this very site. My opposition to NYU is that their housing construction is gobbling up more and more of the Village and particularly the East Village.

Jul. 24 2012 10:42 AM
pliny from soho

NYU has encouraged the deterioration of the land they want to build on
by encouraging hobos to permanently camp on the property.
If city zoning laws are to be effective then land that has been set aside as open space in exchange for taller buildings can not be built on.
This would set the precedent for plaza owners all over the city to build on their open spaces citing their need for profit and the uncivil behaviors
of occupy-wall-streeters or homeless encampments as motives.

Jul. 24 2012 10:31 AM
A. S. Evans

NYU's 2031 Expansion Plan is an overreaching, reckless plan that endangers NYU"s financial stability and could bankrupt and destroy NYU.

NYU should endeavor to sustainable grown that would reduce stress on students and student debt, the surrounding community and NYU own financial solvency.

Jul. 24 2012 09:56 AM

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