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Jane Jacobs, the preservationist and planning guru, at Village Community School on a book tour in 2004.
BY DEBORAH GLICK | A new year brings with it the opportunity to reflect on what has been both positive and negative about the prior year, and to make decisions about how to approach the coming months. Many of these new year’s resolutions fade almost as soon as they are made. But this year, in light of the proposed N.Y.U. 2031 plan, we should all join together to have a collective Jane Jacobs moment.
We must make a commitment to each other and to our community to be the stewards of our neighborhoods. Future generations must rely on us to preserve the community, even as we are faced with multiple challenges to its historic nature and low-rise character.
Jane Jacobs helped define new urbanism through her tenacity and her vision of community. We must channel this same energy as we stand together in opposition to New York University’s plan to remake the Village in its image.
To this end, I am sponsoring a rally this Sat., Feb. 11, at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, at 12 noon so that as a community we can join together, united in a single voice, against this threat to what we hold dear.
N.Y.U.’s 2031 Plan threatens the character of the Village as we know it. N.Y.U.’s proposed buildings are large and out of context with the historic district in which the superblocks are located. They would usurp light and air without regard to the residents who have been living in Washington Square Village for more than 50 years. The numerous zoning changes N.Y.U. is requesting are simply attempts to renegotiate away community benefits that were originally guaranteed in the creation of the superblocks in the first place.
Although N.Y.U. promises this plan will benefit the community, it is impossible to ignore the university’s checkered track record of broken promises. When Bobst Library was built, N.Y.U. promised it would be the last shadow incursion on Washington Square Park. It has since built the Kimmel Center, and now the proposed four new towers within blocks of the park will dramatically alter the sense of open space and cast shadows where there are none today. What is the point of negotiating with the community when these concessions will be withdrawn when N.Y.U. decides they no longer suit its purpose?
N.Y.U. wishes to commandeer city-owned land in order to achieve its development goals, which are different from what the community needs. Greenwich Village severely lacks public open space, and the existing open space we do have should remain publicly accessible. Privately owned public space is never the same as public parkland, and the community does not need or want another student plaza disguised as public space. I also have grave concerns over the implications of the planned construction, especially the impact it would have on mature trees and gardens currently in the proposed construction zone, let alone the residents who will be living in a construction zone for years.
I, along with the community, must remain vigilant of the Bloomberg administration’s role in this process. City-owned land is really owned by the people. The usurpation of city-owned land by a private university is troubling. As we have seen time and again, City Planning has never seen an upzoning it didn’t like, so it is up to the community to ensure that our needs are protected. The needs of residents have too often been shunted aside to favor large developments such as the one N.Y.U. is proposing.
Jane Jacobs protected the Village from the grand designs of planners like Robert Moses who put their single-minded vision of development ahead of the needs of the people in the community. We will not allow this to happen again. The community has vociferously expressed its opposition to N.Y.U.’s plan, which is out of scale for the Village and does not respect the needs of its neighbors. Join me on Saturday and let your voice be heard.
Glick is assemblymember, 66th District