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By ALBERT AMATEAU | More than 500 people turned out in below-freezing weather on Wednesday night to rally against New York University’s plan to develop 2.4 million square feet in four new jumbo-sized buildings on the university’s two superblocks south of Washington Square Park by 2031.
The development plan began its nine-month-long uniform land-use review procedure (ULURP) at the end of last month when the Department of City Planning formally accepted it.
Opponents at the Jan. 4 rally said the plan would overwhelm the neighborhood and reduce scarce open space.
Terri Cude, chairperson of the Community Action Alliance on N.Y.U. 2031, denounced proposed zoning changes that she said would almost double the residential density and “would create a Midtown commercial zone in Greenwich Village.”
“We really don’t need to live on N.Y.U.’s campus,” Cude said.
Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, told the rally that despite City Planning’s formal certification, “The plan is not a done deal. It can’t happen under existing zoning and N.Y.U. is asking for everything we do not want.”
Berman said opponents must demand that Community Board 2, Borough President Scott Stringer and city councilmembers, especially Margaret Chin, whose district includes the two superblocks, and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, must vote an absolute “no” on the plan.
“I believe we can stop the plan,” Berman said, adding, “If we don’t, it will have a horrible, horrible effect on our neighborhood.”
Chin, a featured speaker at the standing-room-only rally at the American Institute of Architects Center, said, “I can feel your passion and commitment to this issue. I believe N.Y.U. is an institution within the Greenwich Village neighborhood and must listen to the voices of the neighborhood.”
A heckler demanded that Chin state her position on the plan.
“You flip-flopped on the Soho BID,” he said, referring to a hotly debated proposal to organize a business improvement district along the Broadway corridor in Soho.
Chin replied that she had to work with 50 other councilmembers, but she said, “I will be there when you need me.”
The City Council has the final say in the ULURP and the councilmember in whose district a project is located has a strong influence on how other councilmembers vote.
Martin Tessler, a member of the Community Action Alliance, said the N.Y.U. 2031 plan was “zoning on steroids” and was unprecedented for a residential neighborhood.
“They don’t want rezoning, they want carte blanche,” he said of the university. “We like N.Y.U. but we want them to be part of the neighborhood.”
Tessler ended his remarks by taking off his shirt and displaying a T-shirt that said, “Warning: N.Y.U. rezoning may be hazardous to your health.”
One member of the audience identified himself as a member of Occupy Wall Street and assured the rally that the Occupiers would be glad to help the opposition to N.Y.U. 2031 — including any direct action.
Jean Grillo, a Democratic district leader from Lower Manhattan, declared there was plenty of room for N.Y.U. to expand Downtown, including in the redevelopment of the World Trade Center.
Jeanne Wilcke, president of Downtown Independent Democrats, said the political club would remind candidates for public office about voters’ concerns over the N.Y.U. plan.
Brad Hoylman, C.B. 2 chairperson, told the audience members, “Community Board 2 will listen to you and write a resolution that will reflect all your hopes and concerns.”