BY DEBORAH J. GLICK | New York University has always yearned for a true campus experience for its students. This goal has eluded N.Y.U. as it has struggled to expand within the confines of the Village neighborhood. Now the university’s aggressive and extremely overreaching development plans, as currently designed, would wall off Washington Square Village with two new buildings, effectively closing off the open rectangle between the two existing buildings and destroying the award-winning and much-beloved Sasaki Garden as a way of creating a central quad.
The southern superblock, with much open space in front of the I.M. Pei buildings, is likewise scheduled to be dramatically altered by two buildings, one which would overshadow and destroy the community gardens on the corner of Bleecker St. and LaGuardia Place, while a building replacing the Coles gym on Mercer St. would have varying heights, all of which are significantly higher than the current building. Unfortunately, the loss of a play space and the existing dog run are collateral damage in this part of the plan.
There is an alternative to much of this development, which N.Y.U. is totally unwilling to consider. The city has granted Cornell University a significant part of the southern section of Roosevelt Island for the creation of a new applied science campus. In addition, the city has provided tens of millions of dollars of support to construct this campus. The city has done this because of the importance of this facility to the future of New York. Similarly, the city has claimed the N.Y.U. expansion is not only important to N.Y.U., but also to the future of New York City.
If one reviews the material presented to incoming freshmen, they are encouraged to pursue core study courses, known as the Morse Academic Plan. These requirements cover what is generally referred to as general education required courses for a broad liberal arts education. It is highly recommended that students complete these requirements by the end of their sophomore year. Therefore, the following proposal provides N.Y.U. with the ability to expand, while preserving the historic and vitally important Village neighborhood.
Governors Island has a significant amount of open space intended to be used for recreational purposes. However, there is also sufficient space for a proper campus environment with academic buildings and student housing, as well as ready-made recreational opportunities. Just as the city provided Cornell with land on Roosevelt Island, so could the city provide N.Y.U. land to create a campus for its entering class.
N.Y.U.’s freshman class has consistently numbered just under 5,000 students. By assigning them to the Governors Island campus, not only would these students have the best of both worlds — a true campus experience right in the middle of New York City — but the space opened up in the immediate Village area would reduce the need for much of the proposed overdevelopment that threatens to disrupt and potentially destroy a hugely successful neighborhood that is an important economic engine for New York’s tourist and film trade.
This is the true win-win option that one always seeks when there are competing concerns. Too often people state that it’s a great compromise when both sides are equally disappointed. I reject the notion that misery in equal parts is the best we can do. I call on the city administration, N.Y.U., the City Planning Commission and the City Council to work out the necessary details in order to address N.Y.U.’s needs and those of New Yorkers committed to preserving our historic communities.
Glick is assemblymember for the 66th District