West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 3 | June 20 - 26, 2007


N.Y.U. projections call for a new plan

New York University’s new strategic planning initiative is yielding results — specifically, in the form of concrete projections on the university’s growth over roughly the next quarter century. This is the sort of information for which local residents have been asking for decades — though the findings may not make them particularly happy.

First, we must acknowledge N.Y.U.’s new approach. The university has retained an outside planning consultant, SMWM, which has been charged with plotting a long-term growth plan. The university is candidly confronting its future, and feeding it back in real time to the community. We remain optimistic — with high expectations.

Working with SMWM is a committed in-house planning team led by N.Y.U.’s Lori Pavese Mazor. They’ve done yeoman’s work, compiling data on the existing facilities of the university’s 14 schools and starting to project future needs.

That said, the projections, frankly, are extremely alarming. Six million more square feet of academic and residential facilities by 2031, to be added to N.Y.U.’s existing 14.5 million square feet, is a massive increase. N.Y.U. says it doesn’t know where all this space will be located — whether in its “campus core,” i.e. Washington Square, Union Square, the Village, in general — or elsewhere.

The planners also project an annual increase of 0.5 percent in students, or 5,500 more students by 2031. N.Y.U. plans new branch campuses — its first will be in Paris — and says that by 2031, 7,000 of its undergraduates will be studying at these foreign sites while 3,000 more will be studying abroad at any given moment — or 10,000 undergrads total studying abroad. Currently, only 1,000 N.Y.U. undergraduates are study abroad at any time. What if this student “outsourcing” doesn’t work? The Village would have to absorb thousands more students into our “fragile ecosystem,” as N.Y.U. President John Sexton has put it.

Not surprisingly, the term “satellite campus” is again being mentioned, this time by members of the Borough President’s N.Y.U. Task Force. Where exactly is 6 million square feet of new space supposed to be created? Yes, N.Y.U. says reusing existing buildings is preferable, but in the last decade, most of what we’ve seen from N.Y.U. is construction of four new dorms and massive buildings like the Kimmel Center and new Law School building.

N.Y.U. says the projections represent their citywide growth. Yet, they feel “a portion” of this new space can fit in the Village.

The university laudably is working to locate faculty and graduate housing outside its campus core — a lease was just signed for a graduate residence in Brooklyn and faculty housing has been purchased on Roosevelt Island. But as Mazor stated, “The majority of our space need is really student housing.” And we know N.Y.U. wants to house more undergraduates closer to campus.

It doesn’t take a planning degree to figure out what this all means. There will be more N.Y.U. expansion in the Village’s fragile ecosystem, unless N.Y.U. — and the community — find alternatives. The planners have their work cut out for them.

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