Volume 75, Number 31 | December 21 - 27, 2005

Editorial

N.Y.U. plans: What a concept

After three decades that have seen New York University’s undergraduate student body double from 9,000 to 18,000 and the number of its dormitories and facilities in the Village area increase exponentially, it seems that N.Y.U. may finally have recognized the need to manage its growth in a rational manner.

The most important indication that this change of mind may have occurred is the hiring of Sharon Greenberger for the new position of vice president of campus planning and real estate. Greenberger is highly qualified, having most recently worked on major planning and development issues with Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff as his chief of staff.

In addition, N.Y.U. has also revamped the departments Greenberger has been picked to lead. Specifically, four areas have been created: a campus planning and design department; an office of space management (focused on using and re-adapting existing N.Y.U. space); an office of real estate development (overseeing, among other things, the 35 commercial leases N.Y.U. controls); and the office of residential services (overseeing the 2,400 units of housing for faculty and some non-N.Y.U. residents the university owns). This clear delineation of different departments and functions is a significant step. Most important, though, is that the university is now saying it is going to put a focus on planning and is dedicating adequate staff and energy toward this end.

Indeed, Greenberger and the N.Y.U. administration say that sometime early next year they will start working on a strategic planning process to define the long-term goals and aspirations of the university.

Clearly, the main issues as far as the Downtown community are concerned are N.Y.U.’s new development projects and its potential to keep growing. The university says it has no plans of expanding its undergraduate student body beyond the current 18,000. Yet, the temptation for the school to add a few hundred or even a few thousand students will always be there, mainly because N.Y.U. has a small endowment and is 70 percent tuition driven. Adding students at high tuition means quick cash.

The fact that N.Y.U. currently houses 3,000 students south of Houston St. is also a looming problem. A few years ago, the university said it would only build on “the perimeter” of the Village and also stressed it was housing students at distant locations, such as in the Financial District. This, of course, was after anti-N.Y.U. community sentiment was at a high following construction of the Kimmel Student Center and new School of Law buildings. Now, N.Y.U. is saying these Downtown students want to be nearer to campus and that the university is focusing on developing around a “cluster” of student housing on the edge of the East Village along Third Ave. and by Union Square.

This is the location of the St. Ann’s site where N.Y.U. now is in contract to occupy a 26-story, 700-student dorm in the works. Here is Greenberger’s first challenge. How will she work with the community to make this project acceptable? We look forward to the answer — and we hope it includes crafting a project that is contextual with the neighborhood in both its size and design.

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