NYU Campus Expansion Plan Reduced Again [UPDATE: Plan Approved by Full Council]

This article was originally published on 7/20/2012 (see below for update).

NYU agreed to limit heights of the Zipper Building and Boomerang Buildings, and to provide community center if no public school is built on site. On July 17, 2012, the City Council’s Land Use Committee modified New York University’s campus expansion proposal in Greenwich Village. Opposition to the project, which had already been reduced by the City Planning Commission, remained when it reached the City Council’s Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee public hearing on June 29, 2012. (See CityLand’s coverage of NYU’s original proposal, and the Planning Commission’s modifications here.)

More than 200 people signed up to testify in front of the Subcommittee, with opponents reiterating their concerns about the project’s impact in the neighborhood. Local Council Member Margaret Chin said she could not support the current proposal, and urged NYU to work with her to further reduce the proposal’s density. Council Member Chin was confident that it was possible to “strike a balance that upholds the integrity” of Greenwich Village and meets NYU’s academic needs. Council Member Jessica S. Lappin agreed with Chin, finding the current proposal “too dense, too big, too tall…too much.” Lappin acknowledged NYU’s claims that it needed to expand in order to accommodate its current student population, but stated that NYU had made the choice to “have a very large undergraduate population.” Members of the Subcommittee repeatedly questioned NYU’s representatives about the university’s outreach efforts, noting opponents’ claims that NYU ignored community concerns during the planning process. The hearing was recessed to allow further negotiations between NYU and the Council.

When the Subcommittee reconvened in July, Chair Mark Weprin announced that the proposal had been modified. NYU representatives described the changes, which reduced the above-grade density by 26 percent. The height of the Zipper Building’s podium would be reduced from 168 feet to 85 feet, with the massing of the staggered towers shifted south toward Houston Street. The height of the Mercer Street Boomerang Building was reduced from 11 stories to four stories, and the footprint of both the Mercer Street and LaGuardia Place Boomerang Buildings were reduced in order to create a larger entryway to the open space.

NYU also made a series of commitments related to open space design, dedicated community uses, and the use of Minority & Women-Owned Business Enterprise businesses during construction. NYU will provide a no less than 7,500-square-foot public atrium in the ground floor of the Zipper Building. Within one year, NYU will provide at least 6,000 sq.ft. of space in 4 Washington Square Village for community use. Further, if by 2014 the School Construction Authority decides not to build a public school in the proposed building at the corner of Bleecker Street and LaGuardia Place, NYU will make plans to provide the core and shell of a 25,000-square-foot community center in the building. Additionally, NYU agreed to expand the responsibilities of the Open Space Oversight Organization to include more NYU-owned public areas and parkland.

The Subcommittee unanimously approved the modified proposal. The Land Use Committee approved the proposal by a 19-1-0 vote. Council Member Charles Barron voted against the proposal and urged his colleagues to “send the project back to the people.”

The full Council cannot vote on the modified proposal until the Planning Commission has reviewed the modifications and determined the changes would not trigger additional environmental review. The Council is expected to refer the modified proposal to the Planning Commission at the stated meeting scheduled for July 25, 2012.

Council: New York University Core (July 17, 2012).

Update (7/25/2012) – At its review session on July 23, 2012, the City Planning Commission found that the modifications to NYU’s proposal would not trigger additional review. On July 25, 2012, the full City Council approved the proposal by a vote of 44-1-0. Council Member Charles Barron voted against the proposal.

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