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BY ALBERT AMATEAU | Village residents declared last week that nothing New York University could do would induce the neighborhood to accept 19 years of construction for the redevelopment of the university’s two superblocks.
Not even N.Y.U.’s offer of storm windows, re-caulking and new or resealed air conditioning units for Washington Square Village and Silver Towers apartments, as well as for some buildings off the site, seemed to satisfy neighbors anxious about a long, noisy construction period.
University officials presented the two-phase construction plan on Jan. 18 at the Community Board 2 Environment, Public Safety and Public Health Committee hearing on the N.Y.U. 2031 project.
The proposed redevelopment would add about 2.5 million square feet of new construction — 1.5 million square feet of that underground — to the superblocks, located between LaGuardia Place and Mercer St. and W. Houston and W. Third Sts.
Audience members said the large-scale redevelopment project reminded them of the Bloomberg administration’s abandoned proposal seven years ago for a football stadium in Manhattan above the West Side Rail Yards.
“I keep thinking of Bloomberg’s crazy plan to put a stadium in the middle of Manhattan,” said Mary Johnson, a Washington Place resident. She called the university’s technical presentation of the construction plans “laughable,” adding, “All the technical mumbo jumbo can’t disguise the insanity of this project.”
Terri Cude, a C.B.2 member, insisted that Minetta Creek, which meanders underground across Greenwich Village, also crosses the north superblock and was not considered in the project’s environmental impact statement, or E.I.S.
An N.Y.U. consultant’s reply that, “Minetta Brook is not anywhere near the construction site,” drew cries of protest from the audience.
John Waters, an N.Y.U. teacher who lives with his family in Silver Towers on the south superblock, said the long construction plan would threaten the future of two nursery schools, one in Silver Towers and the other in Washington Square Village in the north superblock.
Loyan Beausoleil, director of University Plaza Nursery School in Silver Towers, told this newspaper later that she had spoken about the redevelopment with N.Y.U. executives who have been “very supportive.” But she was concerned that the loss for so many construction years of the Key Park playground in the north superblock would deprive many youngsters of play space during the years they most need it.
Beausoleil was also anxious about plans to relocate the existing dog run from Mercer St. to a new location further west on the south block. The new dog run is proposed to open prior to the new toddler playground just north of it.
“I love dogs, I have one myself, but I hope N.Y.U. would give children the priority over dogs,” Beausoleil said.
Phase 1 of the N.Y.U. 2031 project calls for a construction period from 2013 to 2021, first for building a temporary gym on the Mercer St. side of the north superblock between Bleecker and W. Third Sts. to open in 2014.
The first phase also calls for the demolition of the Coles Gym on the Mercer St. side of the south superblock between W. Houston and Bleecker Sts. after the temporary gym is finished. Construction would then begin on the so-called “Zipper Building” with a food market, a university-run hotel and faculty housing or student dorms, with completion projected for 2018.
Also in Phase 1 is the construction of the so-called LaGuardia Place “Boomerang Building” in the north superblock between the north and south Washington Square Village buildings, with completion planned for 2021. Demolition of the temporary gym on the north block is planned for the end of 2021.
Phase 2, from 2022 to 2031, would begin with a new underground Washington Square Village parking garage on the north superblock with completion in the third quarter of 2023. Construction on the below-grade area of the Mercer St. “Boomerang Building” on the north superblock between the Washington Square Village buildings is planned for 2023 to 2026, and the above-grade Mercer St. construction is planned from 2026 to the end of 2028.
Also planned for Phase 2 is the demolition of the low-rise building on the southeast corner of LaGuardia Place and Bleecker St. on the south superblock where the Morton Williams food market is located.
The closing of gardens along LaGuardia Place during construction prompted audience members to shout, “No way!”
Neighbors who anticipated the relentless banging noise of pile driving were assured that there would be no such noise because steel columns would be placed in holes drilled into the earth.
The promise that construction would be done from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays provoked Susan Goren to predict that it would be violated “whenever there is work to be done in emergencies and emergencies can mean almost anything.”
David Gruber, a member of the C.B. 2 N.Y.U. Working Group, told N.Y.U. presenters, “Some of your statements on the impact of construction are hard to accept.” He also recalled the claims of minimal traffic impact in the E.I.S. for the proposed West Side football stadium.
Gruber was also concerned about the proposed five-year construction period proposed for the Mercer St. building on the north superblock.
Jason Mansfield, chairperson of the C.B. 2 Environment Committee, said the board plans to hold other hearings on the N.Y.U. project in February before voting on a recommendation to be submitted to the Department of City Planning at the end of that month.
The final decision in the uniform land use review procedure, or ULURP, for the N.Y.U. plan will rest with the City Council after the City Planning Commission votes on the issue.