BY JUDY PAUL and NOAM DWORMAN | Several weeks ago, thanks to the hard work of Borough President Stringer, New York University announced that it had made improvements to its proposed development in the Village, for the first time since the community began calling for changes. While the reductions in density, preservation of some of the open space, and proposed changes to the construction timetable are real benefits for the community, portions of the proposal remain significantly out of scale.
The almost 70 local businesses, neighborhood groups and Greenwich Village residents that have formed Villagers for a Sustainable Neighborhood want to see N.Y.U. succeed. We are proud to be part of a neighborhood that includes the university.
But we also want to make sure that the proposal respects the existing scale of Greenwich Village — which is one of the elements that makes our neighborhood so appealing to N.Y.U. students.
While N.Y.U. did reduce the density of the proposal, it mostly reduced underground space. Its current proposal still towers above the neighborhood. There is no reason why the Houston St. portion of the “Zipper Building” should be more than 162 feet tall. And the remaining portions of the “Zipper Building” and the Mercer Building should be lowered to match the height of the buildings on the east side of Mercer St.
N.Y.U.’s proposal also includes a significant expansion of commercial space. As small businesses that have spent years — and in some cases decades — making the Village our home, we are concerned that this will only exacerbate the problems that we face in succeeding here in Greenwich Village.
And as residents of Greenwich Village, we are concerned that N.Y.U. still refuses to do enough to ensure adequate open space. N.Y.U. has described 4 acres of redesigned open space as one of the premier benefits of its plan. Unfortunately, the redesigns do not meet the needs of the community. We need more quality open space, not just redesigned open space.
Villagers for a Sustainable Neighborhood understands the importance of this proposal for N.Y.U. We want N.Y.U. to remain competitive and we appreciate the university’s contributions to the economic, civic and educational fabric of our city. However, it is equally critical for N.Y.U. to understand that it is a part of a shared community with Greenwich Village residents and businesses.
We look forward to working with our elected officials and N.Y.U. to come to a compromise that is in the best interests of all those involved.
Paul is owner and C.E.O., the Washington Square Hotel; Dworman is owner, the Comedy Cellar.