Carrots, sticks, air conditioning and N.Y.U. 2031

V TALKING POINT

BY MARTIN TESSLER  |  Recently, The Villager reported on Councilmember Margaret Chin’s announcement about the tenancy of some of the “community facility” space that New York University promised as a condition of getting Council approval of the NYU 2031 Plan. The article happily spoke about Creative Steps Playgroup partnering with University Settlement to be able to grow and have more space for our neighborhood’s early-education needs, and Visiting Neighbors — one of our community’s beloved senior service organizations — getting some space as well. One community member asked whether these were carrots tossed at us to make the N.Y.U. 2031 plan more palatable before the backhoes and pile drivers destroy our community.

Sadly, there really aren’t even any carrots here — just spin. This space is at below-market rent, but not free. This is the “giveback-for-pay” N.Y.U. needed to get Council approval. Twenty-five thousand square feet in the to-be-built building at the current Morton Williams supermarket site; 6,000 square feet in Washington Square Village; and about 7,000 in the proposed “Zipper Building” on Mercer St. Stack that against almost 2 million square feet of approved new buildings, and it comes up virtually infinitesimal. Less than 2 percent for the community — and the nonprofits still have to pay for it!

If the numbers above are correct, this is also an admission that a public school — the one thing N.Y.U. has been promising the community for decades — will not be built. The school on the Morton Williams site was to be 100,000 square feet. The city’s School Construction Authority has until the end of 2014 to state whether it has the need and funding to build this school, but the inclusion of 25,000 square feet in Councilmember Chin’s release shows that she does not expect the school either. Is she hoping we’ll all forget that a school was part of the original promises secured to make the 2031 plan slightly less egregious — not to mention all the other times a school was promised in exchange for prior N.Y.U. projects and not delivered?

Creative Steps Playgroup used to pay no rent as a guest of the Washington Square Village Tenants Association, which has had use of space at no cost since its formation. This facility is a benefit to our neighborhood, which desperately needs early childcare — and more now since the closing of the Children’s Aid Society in our area. The good news is that University Settlement is coming in as a partner so Creative Steps can grow.  Perhaps they will help Creative Steps pay N.Y.U. what the daycare center never had to pay before. Yes, the rent, we are told, is well below market rates in our very expensive neighborhood, and the expanded daycare will have more space. But below-market is still not the same as free.

This “gift we pay for” doesn’t even begin to mitigate the damage the N.Y.U. 2031 plan will do to Greenwich Village. But that’s O.K. — just turn on your air conditioner (whether it’s hot or not) and you won’t notice a thing… .

Councilmember Chin’s recent campaign speeches, especially when questioned about N.Y.U. 2031, feature the fact that 505 LaGuardia Place residents got a very affordable price on the building’s land lease — which could otherwise have reset to a huge number thanks to the revaluation of the land Chin helped N.Y.U. get rezoned from residential to commercial. Saving affordable housing is laudable. But 505 LaGuardia’s land lease was not part of N.Y.U. 2031. This Mitchell-Lama income-limited building’s land lease cost was somehow added into the expansion plan negotiations, with N.Y.U. aware that Councilmember Chin’s dedication to 174 units of affordable housing was a priority despite the thousands of other superblock and adjacent families that would be directly affected by N.Y.U. 2031, and the more widespread effects of the destruction of a historic, residential neighborhood. In addition, 505 LaGuardia had excellent attorneys and other elected officials fighting this battle on their behalf, so it is unclear how much of this victory is the councilmember’s to claim.

So our beloved community organizations get to pay N.Y.U. for the carrots, and we get the sticks. And steel. And concrete. We also lose our city-owned parkland and our light and air and gardens, and instead get decades of a toxic environment, and vermin, and congestion, and air conditioning.

 

Tessler is co-chairperson, Community Action Alliance on N.Y.U. 2031

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6 Responses to Carrots, sticks, air conditioning and N.Y.U. 2031

  1. This District seriously needs a new Council Member!

  2. Salvatore Hirsch

    Correction:

    3) Very heavy air conditioner covers

  3. Thanks for this wonderful article. Here mentioned every little bit of information about air condition will be handy for me and also for others. I hope you will be able to keep posting like this.

  4. Thanks for bringing this to light, Martin Tessler! Incredible and horrifying that NYU is promoting air conditioner use to "mitigate" construction noise. The air conditioners will be sucking in the construction toxins while still assaulting eardrums by creating an equal (but perhaps less obnoxious) noise level. This noise "mitigation" will be needed year-round during two decades of construction. Run an air conditioner in October? The antithesis of green!

    Salvatore Hirsch's comment gets it right when mentioning that the cost for the mitigation of NYU-created noise assault will be born by those living on and near the superblocks (and do those right across the street get their windows upgraded by NYU or does the noise simply stop when it reaches the sidewalk?).

    NYU 2031 is nothing but a way to make more money for NYU. Otherwise, why would NYU have repeatedly testified that they had carefully analyzed their space needs and were asking for only exactly what they absolutely required, then, AFTER approval, convened a Space Priorities committee? And how is it that NYU required a rezoning to commercial, other than to make money by renting out the low-floor housing they have to businesses that will pay top dollar? They came to the Council whining that they do not have enough housing (ignoring the apartments they warehouse in the hopes that they can make bigger apartments when the next-door neighbor finally moves or dies), then take out floors of housing to make more commercial space despite Bleecker Street and nearby's empty storefronts. NYU, please go back to being an educational institution and stop being one of the City's greediest developers. Pay your hard-working professors appropriately for the excellent education they provide, and stop wasting huge dollars on celebriprofs.

  5. If they are no longer happy about the performance of the council, why they not elect a new one?

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