Council Approves NYU Expansion Plan

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The City Council approved New York University’s contentious expansion plan in Greenwich Village on Wednesday despite continued opposition to the proposal from faculty and neighborhood groups.

The Council voted Wednesday after dozens of protesters were escorted out of the chambers.

Ahead of the Council meeting, Speaker Christine Quinn said she thought the modified plan struck a balance in the town-and-gown dispute.

"This plan is very different than the original plan," Quinn said. "Significantly. It's about 26 percent smaller, 26 percent less dense and less tall than the original plan, as well as many other changes."

Last week, a Council committee and subcommittee approved NYU’s plans, after the school trimmed the above ground footage of the project by 26 percent, and the project total by 21.9 percent from its original proposal.

Buildings off of Mercer Street and LaGuardia Place will now be built lower than the existing Washington Square Village buildings. With these reductions, the expansion will still add 1.9 million square feet of new space to be used for classrooms, labs and other university uses.

City councilwoman Margaret Chin represents the neighborhood and helped to broker the compromise with the university. "NYU has broken a lot of promises in the past and there is a deficit of trust in this community," she said. "This plan is a way to start over."

She said it is possible to balance the needs of the university and the community. “I am confident this proposal strikes that balance,” Chin said.

NYU President John Sexton said approval of the NYU 2031 plan was a great day for the school and for the city. "I am also hopeful that today’s vote will offer a chance for NYU to engage its local community in a new and more productive way.  By creating a plan, our needs and our strategy for meeting them over the next 20 years are now far clearer to our neighbors; that’s a much better basis for dialogue," he said in a statement.

Still, opponents of the plan say the project will overwhelm the neighborhood.  
“This is not a compromise,  and we’re going to keep on fighting to try and save our neighborhood and our university,” said Patrick Deer, an associate professor of English at NYU.

A coalition of opposition groups released an online video Tuesday criticizing the city’s political leaders for approving the plan.  

A number of writers, including E. L. Doctorow, compiled a collection of protest pieces against NYU’s expansion, entitled While We Were Sleeping: NYU and the Destruction of New York.

Opponents of the NYU plan united in a new coalition group called StandUp4NYC.  The group vowed to pursue legal action to try to halt NYU’s project.

A spokesman for NYU says the university will not break ground before 2014.

WNYC recently sat down with NYU President John Sexton to talk about the university's plan. Listen below for the full interview:

Mirela Iverac and the Associated Press contributed reporting.