N.Y.U. drops hotel, ‘loft blocks’ rezoning; Planning O.K.’s 2031

BY ALBERT AMATEAU  |  The City Planning Commission on Wednesday approved, with one dissenting vote, New York University’s Plan 2031 to add 2.1 million square feet of new development to the university’s two superblocks south of Washington Square Park.

The approved plan, which goes to the City Council next month for a final decision, includes some but not all of the reductions that N.Y.U. President John Sexton and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer agreed to in April.

Stringer said he was disappointed that City Planning did not ratify a change on the south superblock between Houston and Bleecker Sts. to create a notch that would set the “Zipper Building” back from Mercer St. to allow light and air for residential buildings across the street.

Stringer also criticized the commission’s refusal to include the removal of one story belowground under the proposed public school on the south superblock.

“This makes no sense, especially in light of the fact that N.Y.U. agreed to these changes. I expect the City Council to correct these mistakes,” Stringer said.

But the borough president was pleased that other important aspects of the agreement were approved. Removal of a dormitory on top of the proposed public school and, especially, removal of a temporary gym on the north superblock between Bleecker and W. Third Sts. were important, Stringer said. The removal of underground space beneath park strips on the north superblock was also among the significant changes approved.

“Additionally, the commission ratified a commitment I received to ensure continuous access to playground space on the north block throughout the construction,” Stringer noted. He also said he was pleased that the approval included a reduction in height to 162 feet for the proposed Mercer St. “Boomerang Building” and a height of 128 feet for the other “Boomerang” on LaGuardia St., both on the north block.

In addition, the commission ratified the N.Y.U. decision to drop from the plan a hotel in the “Zipper Building,” but did not reduce the height of this proposed south-block building.

The commission also approved the N.Y.U. decision to scrap a proposed commercial rezoning of the “loft blocks” east of Washington Square Park north of the two superblocks.

Brad Hoylman, chairperson of Community Board 2 and a candidate for the state Senate, also had a mixed reaction to the City Planning vote.

“We’re glad that the project has been reduced in scale and that the temporary gym and the commercial overlay east of Washington Square Park are gone. But there is a lot more work that needs to be done to make this project remotely palatable to the community,” Hoylman said.

The university, however, was gratified at the vote.

“We‘re pleased that N.Y.U.’s strategy for its core has been approved by the commission,” said Alicia Hurley, university vice president for government affairs and community engagement. “We think the plan with modifications enacted by the commission allows the university to meet its academic space needs near its Washington Sqaure core over the next two decades while addressing concerns of the local community.”

Hurley said that the project on university-owned property does not involve eminent domain, tenant dislocation or upzoning. She added that the plan has overwhelming support from dozens of civic leaders, N.Y.U. alumni, local business owners, local editorial boards and many others.

“We look forward to the next stage of the process before the City Council,” Hurley said.

Among the project’s supporters is the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce.

“Because of support from Manhattan Borough President Stringer and now the Planning Commission, we are one step further to bringing new jobs to the area and insuring that one of the city’s top institutions remains competitive,” said Tom Gray, G.V.C.C.C. executive director.

Another business group, Villagers for a Sustainable Neighborhood, was also positive but suggested further changes.

“I applaud the City Planning Comm
ission for recommending significant changes in the size of several buildings, protecting open space and removing the hotel use and the commercial overlay on the loft blocks,” said Judy Paul, chief executive of the Washington Square Hotel and spokesperson for the group. But she also suggested removing proposed commercial uses on the superblocks and reducing the height of the Houston St. end of the “Zipper Building” to no more that 162 feet.

However, Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, remained adamantly opposed to the project.

“The ‘no’ vote by Commissioner Michelle de la Uz, the public advocate’s representative on the commission, was certainly a helpful development,” Berman said. “We hope Councilmember Margaret Chin and Council Speaker Christine Quinn will show similar independence,” he added. The preservationist accused the Bloomberg administration of being behind what he called “the rubber stamp” approval.

The first phase of the 20-year construction project would be on the south superblock. Construction on the second phase — between 2022 and 2031 — would start on the LaGuardia side of the north block, preserving the Washington Square Village Key Park playground until 2027.

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6 Responses to N.Y.U. drops hotel, ‘loft blocks’ rezoning; Planning O.K.’s 2031

  1. Sylvia Rackow

    I am personally disappointed in the City Planning's ill advised condemnation of our Village community to 20 years of constant construction, While some of the modifications (removal of the hotel,no temporary gym,etc.) are useful,Most of us know that NYU's overkill plan had more than they expected to receive. Certainly, giving NYU public land strips,rezoning from residential to commercial, the oversized " Zipper" & "Boomerang" buildings, loss of the Sasaki Gardens and threats to Laguardia Gardens are unacceptable to name a few wrong CPC decisions.

    I agree with Borough President Stringer's disappointment over changes he negotiated that were left out .“This makes no sense, especially in light of the fact that N.Y.U. agreed to these changes. I expect the City Council to correct these mistakes,”

    Ask any of the millions of tourists, who visit Greenwich Village annually, why they are there. They will not say it's because NYU's "Zipper" and "Boomerang" are the attraction but rather the historic Greenwich Village culture we are noted for. The proposed buildings are really unattractive.The "Zipper" building imposes on Mercer Street residences.The landmarked Silver Towers area will experience an intrusion of long shadows cast on the landmarked area where the proposed playground and dog run as well as the Sylvette statue are located. The "Zipper" was not carefully designed and is thoughtless of its neighbors on both sides of Mercer. The "Boomerang" may come back to haunt NYU for years to come.

    Most of the community agrees with Andrew Berman. The NYU 2031 plan is still MUCH TOO LARGE, MUCH TOO IMPOSING on our two block neighborhood. It should be voted down by the City Council if they will exercise some independence and recognize the needs of our Village community.

    Sylvia Rackow
    The Committee to Preserve Our Neighborhood

  2. The Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce should issue a disclaimer because one of its largest members is N.Y.U. So basically N.Y.U. is endorsing its own plan. Since that is a conflict of interest why would GVCCC issue such a statement and why would The Villager use them as a reliable, unbiased source other than to try to provide "balance" to an issue that the community has vehemently opposed in great numbers.

    Twenty years of massive construction will be destructive to our neighborhood and will set a zoning precedent that will be a nightmare for the rest of Greenwich Village and New York City.

    I applaud City Planning Commissioner Michelle de la Uz, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's representative, for voting against the N.Y.U. 2031 Plan saying it was too vague.

  3. Judith Chazen Walsh

    All togetjher now DOWNTOWN……why did NYU stop listening to or talking with CB1 who had some wonderful
    leads for affordable recycleable buildings? It would take less than 20 years and be up and running for
    NYU's alleged dire needs

    Fellow New Yorkers — Manhattan,the Bronx, Staten Island, Queens and Brooklyn – you are ripe for development
    Please be aware you could be next to be faced with a monstrous, oversized, community-destroying real estate project under the guise of an academic or not-for-profit institution!

    Join us – speak out with us – tell the Mayor, the City Council and your elected officials you do not want to be
    'developed;'

  4. In the words of one of my faculty colleagues at the University, spoken in response to the City Planning Commission’s gutless vote a few days ago: “A sad day for our university… for recruitment and retention of our colleagues, for our educational mission, for our students' financial futures. And what a sad day for Greenwich Village.” As much as it pains us, I and the vast majority of our faculty colleagues at NYU agree with every word. This is a sad state of affairs indeed and should tell the public something about the dramatic erosion of morale at the University under the Sexton administration, extending from the faculty to low- and mid-level administrators (who have taken the biggest hit of “reductions” at the University) to alarmed alumni and, saddest of all, to the increasingly-indebted student body. As of today, as many as 34 Schools and Departments have drafted and voted in favor of individual departmental resolutions, voicing their staunch opposition to NYU 2031, as currently conceived. The Departments expressing their profound concern with the expansion range from Economics (which includes no fewer than 3 Nobel Prize winners), Politics, History, Art History, Classics and French Studies to Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Chemistry and Mathematics. Entire Schools and Centers voting against the Plan include the Stern Business School (by the overwhelming count of 52-3, which should tell the public something about the financial feasibility of Sexton’s two-decade-long, 4-6 billion-dollar plan … twice our modest endowment), the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, the Silver School of Social Work and the Center for Neural Science. The large majority of departmental votes have been unanimous. While the wording of every resolution is different, the spirit behind each one is the same: We, the NYU faculty, believe that the current administration is endangering the intellectual and fiscal health of the University, in light of the scale, unjustified purpose and cost of the planned expansion. (For all of the individual resolutions, see: http://nyufasp.com/ ).

    Suffice it to say, relations between our tone-deaf current administration and the NYU faculty has never been more strained. June is now upon us, and NYU is one of the coldest places in all New York. Here, I have to strenuously disagree with the present article’s subhead: NYU is not gratified at the vote. Nothing could be farther from the truth, in fact. That is, unless one believes that the lifeblood of any academic institution is not its faculty and students but its top-level brass. NYU 2031 is NOT – and never has been — the “university’s plan”; it was hatched and is being pushed through entirely by the NYU administration and our trustees, many of whom just happen to be among the biggest power players in the real estate business. The sole source of consistent support coming for the plan from any one body outside the NYU administration’s echo chamber predictably comes from the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, which is no doubt licking its chops at the prospect of all sorts of eateries and retails shops mushrooming all around the Washington Square Village courtyard – at present, occupied by the green oasis that is the award-winning Sasaki Garden, used and enjoyed not only by the WSV residents but the surrounding community for everything ranging from quiet lunches to weekend birthday parties for neighborhood kids.

    For those readers who do not usually keep up with academia-related manners, I cannot overstate just how extraordinary the department-by-department expression of faculty opposition to Sexton’s 2031 Plan really is. Or what a risk faculty are taking, especially those who are untenured, to officially register their profound concern with the recklessness of Sexton’s plan. To be sure, it is absolutely unprecedented – on anything approaching the current scale – at NYU. And it is only growing in volume and intensity with every passing month as we approach the critical City Council vote, as more and more faculty come to grips with the gravity of the current threat to the well-being of our University, to say nothing of the well-being of our surrounding neighborhood and its marvelous diversity, whether expressed in its people and small businesses or its distinctive architecture and beloved green space.

  5. I'm glad to see that NIMBY's and 60's refugees liberals have be beaten on this (so far.) This is exactly the type of development NYC needs (the kind that brings in talent, money, and jobs.)

  6. In the words of one of my faculty colleagues at the University, spoken in response to the City Planning Commission’s gutless vote a few days ago: “A sad day for our university.

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