Saturday, September 17, 2011

NYU Expansion Plan Presses Forward With Park Destruction

Terri Cude, a preservation activist, in a strip of parkland that New York University had planned to buy and level to make way for housing. It has now agreed to preserve this strip, but its latest plan still irks Ms. Cude and other critics.

Terri Cude - Co-Chair of the Community Action Alliance on NYU (CAAN2031) - photographed last year in a strip of parkland along LaGuardia Place that New York University had wanted to buy and level part of it to make way for offices. This strip would be mapped as parkland. (For years the school has attempted to block its transfer to mapped parkland.) This strip is one of two areas where NYU has proposed to build underneath whereby depriving public access to the park space for years. Under NYU's current proposal, the existing parks would be destroyed and used as staging areas for construction. Mature trees would be removed and the new space would allow for the planting of only shallow-rooting trees and plants critics assert. The plan would allow NYU access to dig through any replacement parks that are eventually built. (Photo: Richard Perry/The New York Times)

NYU is still seeking to acquire two of the strips from the City - including a dog run in front of NYU's Coles gymnasium and one above their co-gen facility on Mercer Street. According to Ms. Cude they have been silent about three other strips - the E/W strips on Bleecker and West 3rd, and the LaGuardia Corner Garden/Time Landscape strip on LaGuardia between Houston and Bleecker Streets, leaving the garden/landscape strip without Parks protection. Critics wonder whether NYU has future plans to use that land.

The community is fighting to preserve seven DOT park areas in total.

"The seven strips of land on the superblocks of Greenwich Village are mapped to the Department of Transportation, a lush green legacy of the Village’s successful battle against Robert Moses’ attempt to create a Downtown Expressway and widen our streets to be on-ramps for his planned road going through the Washington Square Park arch," according to CAAN's website.

"These lands are mostly now community amenities – the peaceful oasis of a beautiful Community Garden, a unique Playground for children past the toddler stage, a verdant Village Green, a Dog Run and more."

Village resident Terri Cude has been fighting to preserve the open spaces for years.

"Transfer of the seven city-owned parkland strips to the NYC Department of Parks and
Recreation has long been desired by the community and was called for by the area's elected officials, Community Board and the Community Action Alliance on NYU 2031 (CAAN 2031),"Ms. Cude said in a statement. "NYU has chosen to support the transfer of two, and can be expected to block the community's efforts to remap the other five to Parks as they have done for decades.

"The Greenwich Village community may eventually get some semblance of parks back on the two open spaces that will be mapped to Parks, with some new trees that will take decades to reach the majesty – and air-cleaning properties – of what was lovingly planted by Villagers so many years ago," Ms. Cude continued. "But we certainly won’t get that before years of that land being construction sites instead, with at least a generation deprived of their use. And NYU would have the right to take off anything on the surface of those new parks at any time as needed and dig through them to their underground sites, making them unavailable to our community yet again.

So one park lost forever, two lost for the foreseeable future, and four whose future is uncertain. NYU should not be permitted to pull off this strip scam!

NYU has already taken over and overbuilt much of our Village, changing its character forever. The Greenwich Village community has 0.4 acres of parkland per 1,000 people, while the benchmark for an area well-served by parkland is 2.5 acres per 1,000 people, so our parks are especially precious.

NYU plans to build
an 800,000 square foot building with 200,000 square feet underground on one of the open space strips plus the land behind it. That will house a 1,000+-bed dorm, a hotel, a gym, a supermarket, faculty housing, academic space and retail. They also intend to build below two other open space strips, which doesn't sound so bad until you realize that building under means completely destroying the parkland on it, ripping out all the mature trees that clean our air and the play space that keeps our children healthy. That land will be under construction for years as four stories are built below, and then will continue to be part of a construction site for many more years as it is used for construction equipment parking and access to the land immediately adjacent - which is currently also green open space soon to be lost forever.

This will forever alter the nature and character of Greenwich Village."

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said in a statement that the revisions to NYU's plans are insignificant, according to DNAinfo.

"The changes NYU has made are literally, as well as figuratively, nothing more than tinkering with the edges. Shifting one building fifteen feet to the west does not solve the much bigger problems of this plan," Berman said.

NYU's tweaked changes will be reflected in the school's application to the Department of City Planning as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) which is expected to begin in the next two months according to reports. - Geoffrey Croft


On Thursday NYU released the latest design for its 20-year expansion. Critics are not happy.

New York University, trying to placate critics of it plans to build more dormitories and offices in Greenwich Village, announced on Thursday that it would not seek to purchase two park-like strips of land bordering two giant housing complexes, according to the New York Times.

Instead, the school said it would move to have those areas permanently set aside as parkland. But some opponents of the building plan said they were not swayed by the decision.

The university intends to build four new buildings within Washington Square Village and Silver Towers — modernist housing complexes that rise imposingly north of Houston Street. And about a year ago N.Y.U. revealed that it would seek to buy from the city four oblong strips of park — some with benches, shade trees and narrow gardens and one that includes a dog run and playground. But many Greenwich Village neighbors protested and staged a rally last December urging that the strips be permanently made parkland.

On Thursday, N.Y.U. said that with two of the strips it would do what the neighbors demanded — ask the city to have them permanently considered parkland. (It plans to go ahead with the acquisition of the other two strips of land.)

In order to pursue its building plans without two of the tracts the university said it would move the footprint of one proposed 14-story tower on Mercer Street 15 feet. It also said it would find other locations for a playground and a dog run within the housing complexes.

“In addition to addressing the university’s long-range needs for academic space, our plan also enhances the local area through the addition of new public open space that will be programmed to serve a variety of constituencies,” Lynne Brown, a senior vice president, said in a statement. An N.Y.U. press release added that the new plans “reflect significant refinements that have been made after an intensive dialogue with area stakeholders.”

But Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said the university’s offer to make the two of the strips of land permanent parks was partly nullified by its request for easements to burrow in the land. N.Y.U. wants to create underground rooms for purposes like music and theater practice and film screening, a process that would remove the land from communal use for perhaps years at a time, a fact that was acknowledged by Alicia D. Hurley, vice president for government affairs.

Mr. Berman said about the announcement, “They’re not giving us anything we don’t already have, and these easements’ would allow them to dig through the park and put construction equipment in the park.”

Terri Cude, a co-chairwoman of the preservationist Community Action Alliance on N.Y.U., said the easements would allow the university to uproot old trees that provide shade and beauty in the park and that would at best take decades to restore. Taking away a playground while construction proceeds, she said, “would mean a whole generation of kids will never be able to use the playground.”

The N.Y.U. press release quoted Holly Leicht, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, as praising the university for being responsive to the group’s concerns and for mapping the two properties as parkland. In an interview, she indicated that closing the parks to construct underground rooms was not a major concern.

“The reality is that if you’re constructing buildings of that scale so close to public spaces you would not have been able to keep a playground open during construction anyway,” she said.

Read More:

New York Times - City Room - September 15, 2011 By Joseph Berger

DNAinfo - September 16, 2011 - By Andrea Swale

Revised plan seeks to overcome neighborhood opposition by reducing the amount of land the school will build on and guaranteeing two plots will remain parkland.
Crain's new York business - September 15, 2011 - By Amanda Fung

NYU 2031 Plan Update - September 2011

A Walk In The Park - November 1, 2010

A Walk In The Park - May 18, 2010

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