Volume 75, Number 48 | April 19 - 25 2006

Planning czar bolts N.Y.U. for Bloomberg schools job

By Lincoln Anderson

As New York University’s campus planning — or lack thereof — continues to come under fire, Sharon Greenberger, the director of the university’s campus planning, is leaving to take a job with the Bloomberg administration as chief of the School Construction Authority. The S.C.A. orchestrates all building projects in the city’s public school system.

Crain’s New York Business reported the news of Greenberger’s accepting the S.C.A. post. According to Crain’s, part of what Greenberger will focus on is the sale of air rights from school buildings to neighboring private development sites.

One of Greenberger’s projects while heading N.Y.U.’s real estate department was to craft a long-range plan for N.Y.U.’s development, which was to be made public. With her departure, the status of that plan and the university’s commitment to make good on its promise are now unclear.

Greenberger’s move comes as the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and six other Village community groups have been pushing for N.Y.U. to locate one or more secondary campuses outside of the Village, into which the university could expand, thereby stopping the university’s ongoing development from further overwhelming the Village.

The announcement also follows hot on the heels on articles by The Villager about how N.Y.U. was until recently negotiating for a site for a presumed new dormitory at Third Ave. and 10th St. N.Y.U. backed out of those negotiations as public scrutiny — and demands for transparency from N.Y.U. about its plans at that site and in the Village in general — reached a peak. After The Villager article, the university subsequently tried to downplay its prior interest in the Third Ave. site.

Andrew Berman, G.V.S.H.P director, said he found it ironic to read that Greenberger will be working on hawking public school air rights to developers.

“This was probably a skill she mastered while working with N.Y.U. doing the sale of air rights from the post office for N.Y.U.’s 26-story dorm,” he quipped, referring to the dorm project on the former St. Ann’s Church site on E. 12th St. In fact, it was a private developer, Hudson Companies — which is building the dorm for the university — that negotiated the air-rights sale before N.Y.U. came into the picture.

More to the point, Berman said, “On a much more serious note, it raises the issue of when is N.Y.U. going to get to their long-promised, long-range planning discussions with the community, now that the head of their long-range planning division is leaving? It raises a question about how stable is that division at N.Y.U. if its head leaves after a year and before she’s even done anything.”

Speaking late on Tuesday, when reached for comment, John Beckman, the university’s spokesperson, said: “I am not prepared to discuss the item in Crain’s about Sharon, but I am prepared to say that the issues that Sharon oversees are matters of importance to the university, as they are to the community, and our efforts on those issues will continue apace regardless of circumstances.”

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