BY JESSICA GOODMAN | N.Y.U. faculty members are still fighting the university’s 2031 mega-development plan, even though it was approved by the City Council by a 44-to-1 vote in late July.
N.Y.U. Faculty Against the Sexton Plan — a group made up mostly of tenured professors — filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to try to stop the development scheme.
On Mon., Sept. 17, Professor Adam Becker, a tenured professor in N.Y.U.’s classics department and a member of N.Y.U. FASP, moderated a panel discussion at Soho’s McNally Jackson bookstore. Four political pundits on the panel and about two dozen guests considered the question, “Is New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s or ours?”
They decided it was Bloomberg’s.
The panelists included Julian Brash, the author of “Bloomberg’s New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City.”
“Bloomberg tried to run the city as if he were a C.E.O. mayor. He tied two groups together in political alliance,” Brash said. “People came into city government because of Bloomberg — architects, M.B.A.s, former McKinsey-ists.”
Brash said Bloomberg’s vision of what New York could be was “ambitious and transformative” but that it didn’t translate to governance.
Another panelist, Neil Fabricant, author of “Mike! Wall Street’s Mayor,” was more hard-hitting in his comments.
“Bloomberg is the most corrupt and most dominant figure in New York City history,” Fabricant said. He criticized Bloomberg for running for a third term, adding, “Bloomberg is everything Occupy Wall Street is fighting against. It’s not the wealthy influencing government — that’s happened forever — it’s the wealthiest man virtually controlling the policy and politics of the entire city.”
Jeanne Wilcke, a familiar face in Downtown politics, and another panelist, agreed that this applied to N.Y.U.’s Downtown spread.
“Land approvals are coming down the pipe so fast. They want to get plans in before Bloomberg is out,” she said. Wilcke is a former chairperson of Community Board 2’s Zoning Committee and is president of the Downtown Independent Democrats political club. “I like to call him a benevolent dictator,” she said of the mayor.
In Brash’s book, he calls Bloomberg’s New York the “luxury city.” On Monday he said, “Bloomberg tried to market the city like a luxury product, but projects like the Hudson Yards didn’t really work that way.”
The panel coincided with the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. Karen Livecchia, 50, participated in the Zuccotti Park protests last year and attended the discussion at McNally Jackson. Livecchia asked the panelists if Occupiers should join their community boards and local governments.
Wilcke nodded, saying, “Well, they have to occupy something.”
Regarding N.Y.U.’s expansion, Livecchia said, “The flavor of the neighborhood will be pushed out. It sets an economic divide in the community. It creates an eminent domain.” Though she lives in Upper Manhattan, she said the issue is citywide, noting, “If I wasn’t rent-stabilized, I couldn’t afford to live where I do.”
Becker was arrested at a protest march about student debt in early June 2012 near the N.Y.U. campus, an event in which many Occupy Wall Street members participated.
Thirty-four faculty departments at N.Y.U. have passed resolutions, many unanimously, opposing the 2031 plan. The argument against the plan has been well-publicized: expected tuition hikes, community backlash and heavy construction till 2031.
On the day the Council voted on the N.Y.U. plan, E.L. Doctorow wrote in the Daily News, “An expanded N.Y.U. should not be carved out of the Village heart.”
After the bookstore event, Bo Riccobono, vice chairperson of C.B. 2 and an N.Y.U. adjunct professor, and Becker discussed the impending lawsuit.
“I think we’ll win,” Riccobono said. “The process was arbitrary and capricious. If we can prove that…,” he trailed off.
Becker chimed in. “The administration is saying, ‘Stop being such a problem. Stop questioning things.’ Sexton is like a mini-Bloomberg.”