NYU Takes a Shave; Locals Still Not Pleased

East Newsletter
The NYU expansion plan as seen from above will not change drastically. (Courtesy NYU)

The NYU expansion master plan as seen from above will not change drastically. (Courtesy NYU)

As was largely expected following comments from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer‘s office leaked to the press last month, officials from NYU announced that the university has agreed to shave off 370,000 square feet from their 2,275,000 square foot expansion plan, The New York Times reported.

In a telephone interview with AN, Andrew Berman, of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said that even with those changes the project is still out of scale for the neighborhood. Berman added that he was disappointed that the Borough President (BP) didn’t hold public meetings for the ULURP, as was done for the Columbia University expansion in Morningside Heights. “If there was ever a ULURP to hold a public hearing for, it was this,” he said.

A cross section of the north blocks Boomerang Building reveal the underground complex that the new plan leaves in tact. (Couresy NYU)

A cross section of the north blocks' Boomerang Buildings reveal the underground complex that the new plan leaves in tact. (Couresy NYU).

For the past few months, several NYU watchers have been speculating that the university was hedging its bets with a plan that included more space than needed so as to reach the Goldilocks-just-right moment negotiated by the BP’s office today. The breakdown doesn’t change the overall character of the design. The comparison of plan being the “size of the Empire State Building” still somewhat applies, though less 17 percent (NYU documents put it closer to minus 14%). The changes leave the underground complex on the north block fairly intact. The so-called Kimmelman Plan, which called for the elimination of the Grimshaw/Toshiko Mori Boomerang buildings, was ignored. Instead, the university proposes to take 85,000 square feet off the top, but the 770,000 square feet below grade will remain.

On the southern superblock the new plan proposes moving the Zipper Building farther back from Mercer Street, to allow more light for neighbors across the street. But the original plan, refined by Michael Van Valkenburg, would have in any case opened up a dreary alleyway between the Zipper Building and I.M. Pei’s Silver Towers, thus creating a more generous approach from Houston Street to the courtyard featuring Picasso’s sculpture Portrait of Sylvette. Finally, the proposed 14-story building set to replace the supermarket on the northwest corner will be cut in half.  Whether this makes much of a difference in the overall pedestrian influx is doubtful, as that building included a proposed public school that the Department of Education never agreed to use. A controversial hotel is still in the mix, for now.

The revised plan will be presented to City Planning today, but the big brouhaha public hearing will take place on April 25 at 10:00 A.M. Territorial ironies aside, the commission has wisely relocated the public meeting to the more spacious environs of the Museum of the American Indian at Bowling Green.

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