In a 12 to 1 vote this morning, City Planning approved NYU’s Core expansion plans for two superblocks in Greenwich Village designed by Grimshaw with Toshiko Mori and Michael Van Valkenburg. In slow and deliberative pace, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden read from a prepared text that included several aesthetic and few programmatic changes to the proposed plan. The new plan will reduced the size of the overall project from 2.47 million square feet to 2.1 million. All four proposed buildings were approved with tweaks here and there. Both of the so-called “Boomerang Buildings” will be reduced in height that will not exceed the slabs of the Washington Square Village buildings that frame them. The “Zipper Building” will not be allowed to include a hotel component as part of its programming. The proposal for a temporary gym was also nixed. Of the changes to the nearly four acres of public space the most significant is that the university will not be permitted to build beneath the green strips on the northern superblock, thus saving the mature trees that are on the site. The proposed light wells that allow natural light to flow to the massive subterranean structure will be reduced on the Mercer Street Boomerang Building so as to create more open space at grade. The creation of the an Open Space Oversight Organization will be set up to insure public oversight, and allow for future modifications, “especially as the space is not to be built until 15 years from now,” said the Commissioner. As the lone commissioner to vote against the proposal Michelle de la Uz praised the university’s “laudable efforts,” but noted that it was done to address the impression that “their growth thus far has been haphazard and insensitive.” She also voiced concern, shared by many in the community, that the programming for the northern superblock is still too vague. She added that a lack of affordable housing and a public school were also troubling. In the end Uz concluded the project’s size has not dramatically changed, as indeed it hasn’t. For their part NYU seemed pleased with the outcome, with NYU’s vice president of government affairs Alicia Hurley finding most of the changes as “not an impediment” to the university’s overall goals. The one building that seemed to get lost in the shuffle was the building replacing the Morton Williams super market on the southern superblock. That building is supposed to house the public school which sparked Commissioner Uz’s concern. Hurley said that ongoing talks with the Department of Ed are going well. “They are interested,” she said. After the hearing, Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, employed the shoehorning-the-Empire-State-Building-into-the-Village phrase he’s used throughout the process to describe the plan. He did not seem particularly surprised by the outcome, saying that every major development application that went before this commission was approved. Still, he held out hope that the next stop for the application at City Council will put a halt to the project. “Hopefully City Council will show some independence from the mayor,” he said.
Posts tagged with "Alicia Hurley":
Manhattan Community Board 2 unanimously voted against the NYU expansion plan in Greenwich Village last night citing the impact its scale would have on the neighborhood. Grimshaw with Toshiko Mori designed four of the proposed towers and Michael Van Valkenburgh designed the landscape for the 2.4 million square foot expansion. The plans were set within two superblocks that sprang from Robert Moses-era urban renewal projects that featured buildings by I.M. Pei, Paul Lester Weiner, and a garden by Hideo Sasaki. Of the many proposed elements that the board took issue with, density topped the list. Nearly one million square feet would sit below grade. “They kind of gamed the zoning resolution,” said David Gruber, co-chair of CB2’s NYU Working Group. “The zoning talks about density, but that only counts above ground. There was so much underground but that doesn’t get picked up in the zoning resolution.” Even with the below grade component going under the FAR radar, Gruber said that the plan still needs six zoning changes. And though half of the project wouldn’t be seen from the street, the 12,000 extra pedestrians coming to and fro would be. NYU’s vice president of government affairs, Alicia Hurley said that the university was unique in their ability to utilize windowless, underground space, as they can use it for lecture halls, classrooms, auditoriums, and studios. “The thing we’re trying to have people understand is that we know we’re going to have needs for facilities, we’re already thinking of other parts of the city,” she said, referencing downtown Brooklyn and the hospital campus on Manhattan’s East Side. “We are trying to do as much on our own footprint, to limit the spread out into other communities.” After several months of shepherding the proposal through contentious committee meetings, Hurley said that she wasn’t surprised by the vote. Andrew Berman for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation said the vote revealed larger problems with zoning. “It seems counter intuitive and an enormous loophole that underground space is not counted as zoning square footage,” he said. “It points to the need for reform.” The irony amidst the “Save the Superblock” t-shirts is that the same preservationist crowd may have likely stood in front of bulldozers to thwart Moses’s urban renewal that created the superblocks in the first place. That blocks are now considered an asset, argued Tom Gray, executive director of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. “I think that the preservationist angle is not as pure as it sounds; it's used as a club to stop development which I think is a bit disingenuous,” he said. “Robert Moses put the superblocks in place and it worked. It doesn’t mean it has to stay that way forever.”