[UPDATE] NYU 2031 hearings to begin today


Lyanne Natividad

NYU plans to build on the superblocks shown above as part of the 2031 Expansion Plan.

Rebecca Spalding, Contributing Writer

The New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division will hear oral arguments today at 2 p.m. in NYU’s appeal of the ruling that halted the bulk of its 2031 expansion plan.

The appeals process began in January when judge Donna Mills determined that the state legislature must approve the use of three strips of parkland within the area of the university’s planned expansion. The university then appealed the ruling because of a disagreement over Mills’ assertion of implied parkland.*

While both sides await a decision from the appellate court, NYU is proceeding with plans to build on the site of Coles Sports Center, which was unaffected by the January ruling.

However, Andrew Berman, a plaintiff in the case against NYU and executive director of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation, said NYU should not be able to go through with its expansion plans on the site.

“We do not believe that the university can proceed with construction,” Berman said. “[The prior] ruling makes clear that the basic assumptions of the environmental review and approval that were the basis for the approvals previously given were incorrect.”

In the week preceding the hearing, the New York Building Congress released a report underwritten by NYU, Columbia University and CUNY, which stated that higher education spending on construction in New York City will reach $9.85 billion between 2013 and 2017. The report highlighted NYU, celebrating its 14 major construction projects planned for the next five years.

“[T]his report makes the inescapable point — colleges and universities are helping build New York and in the process lifting the city’s economy,” Lynne Brown, NYU spokesperson and co-chair of the Building Congress’s Higher Education Committee, said in a press release.

However, Berman dismissed the report as being besides the point.

“We consider the report to be a red herring that sidesteps the real issues,” Berman said.

Berman added that his organization worried the construction in Greenwich Village would have limited economic benefits and a detrimental environmental impact, as opposed to the Financial District or Downtown Brooklyn.

Another issue raised by critics is how the university intends to finance future construction. The final report released by the University Spaces Priorities Working Group forecasts that, between 2013 and 2022, NYU will spend $3.01 billion on new construction and renovation. However, that figure only takes into account construction on the Coles site and none of the other projects halted by the courts.

NYU spokesperson Philip Lentz said both the Coles project and the 14 other construction projects mentioned in the New York Building Congress will be financed in a variety of ways.

“The Coles site will be financed as part of NYU’s overall capital budget, which is financed through a combination of long-term borrowing, short-term borrowing, fundraising, drawdown of available cash and reinvestment of annual operating surpluses,” Lentz said.

In anticipation of the oral arguments at the hearing, the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation and NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan are holding a rally on LaGuardia Place today at 12 p.m.

 A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Sept. 24 print edition. Email Rebecca Spalding at [email protected]

*Correction: WSN incorrectly summarized Donna Mill’s decision saying that the parkland would be transferred to NYU and said it would halt much of the expansion plan. The land is not being transferred and it did not halt most of the plan. WSN regrets this error.