‘In and of the city’ mantra compromised

WSN Editorial Board

NYU prides itself on being “in and of the city.” Yet, as the legal battle over the NYU 2031 expansion plan continues, the university is facing an increasing number of community opponents. On Sept. 24, the New York State Supreme Court heard arguments on NYU’s appeal of a lower court’s decision that declared three city-owned lots in Washington Square Village to be parkland. For NYU, the ruling means the city must seek approval before legally transferring the land to the university.

Most of the opponents’ legal arguments have been founded in whether the land for construction is legally protected. Petitioners recently argued that the Mercer-Houston Dog Run should be protected as parkland despite the court ruling otherwise, which would prevent NYU’s construction at the Coles Sports Center site, a major component of the expansion.

Before last week’s arguments, a rally was held where concerned individuals spoke against NYU 2031, including New York City public advocate Letitia James, who encouraged Mayor Bill de Blasio to denounce the expansion.

NYU 2031 has been met with opposition since its inception. Community organizations came together in coalitions like the Community Action Alliance on NYU 2031 to take legal action. CAAN2031 has expressed concern that NYU’s expansion would compromise the character and quality of neighborhoods, and that NYU has viable alternatives. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation noted that, while NYU has a place in the village, it should not become the defining trait.

Opponents of NYU 2031 have suggested that there are alternatives to the plan, but NYU has defended its proposal, claiming other usable real estate is not for sale near campus. The argument for NYU 2031 is not without merit. Proponents of the plan believe that NYU needs to expand, as it currently offers insufficient academic square footage per student. Most opponents of 2031 agree — it is the approach that divides these increasingly vocal groups. Moreover, the inability of the opposing sides to reach a common ground has perpetually polarized the debate.

While the university faces significant challenges to its expansion in Manhattan, its plans must integrate the wishes of the New York City community if it intends to remain “in and of the city.” Preserving the character of historic areas, a concern that CAAN2031 and the Greenwich Village Society have expressed, embodies a legitimate value. By allowing the uneasiness that the expansion plan has incited among neighborhood leaders, faculty and government officials to continue, the NYU administration compromises the bond the institution and the surrounding area share.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 29 print edition. Email the Editorial Board at [email protected]

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Many of NYU’s own students don’t even agree with the expansion plan. Why would NYU invest millions into increasing how much property it owns when students barely receive financial support for studying here? Maybe we shouldn’t enroll so many students if we don’t have the space to support them.

  2. It seems surprising that this article doesn’t mention NYU FASP (Faculty Against the Sexton Plan) who have been some of the prime organizers against NYU 2031, whatever you think of the group. NYU FASP has worked closely with the Greenwich Village Historical Society. It has proposed an alternative plan that doesn’t require massive new building to make NYU work better. Anyone who has used classrooms in any capacity knows that there’s a tremendous amount to do to make the current space…

  3. And many of NYU’s own faculty oppose the plan—a crucial fact unmentioned in this editorial.

    NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, with well over 450 public members, is one of the two lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed against the City for approving 2031. Thanks to NYUFASP’s efforts to inform the faculty at large, 39 schools and departments have passed resolutions calling on the president to drop the plan, most of them unanimous or nearly so. Such opposition _by the faculty_ also found…

  4. Community opposition to NYU 2031 is extremely important, but the article should have acknowledged that faculty across the university have also expressed their opposition to the plan, and FASP (Faculty Against the Sexton Plan) has been a major force in the campaign against NYU 2031. This is not a dispute between “town” and “gown” but rather a campaign that unites members of the Greenwich Village community, affiliated with NYU or not, against a plan that emerged from the NYU administration.

  5. I can’t help but notice that this article makes NO MENTION of the uprising about the Sexton Plan by NYU faculty and students, collectively known as FASP, in cooperation with community groups mentioned and not. I assume the omission is intended to belittle the group’s efforts. But the courts have agreed with them and the Sexton Plan is doomed by popular demand.

  6. Any responsible account of the opposition to Sexton’s expansion plan (aka NYU2031) would need to mention not only the faculty alliance (FASP, Faculty Against the Sexton Plan) opposed, but the 39 votes taken by Departments and Schools at the Square that either outright condemned the plan and/or questioned its financial wisdom. There is almost universal opposition to the plan — despite Sexton’s disclaimers that opposition is a fringe group of crazies — and the Administratively hand-picked…

  7. I wonder how you could research and publish an entire article without mention of the
    Faculty Against The Sexton Plan? Were you unaware of NYU faculty and students public opposition and legal efforts or were you disregarding it?

  8. I welcome your editorial opposition to NYU 2031. I was surprised and puzzled, however, to find that you made no mention of the strong, ongoing faculty opposition to the plan organized by Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (FASP). It seems to me perverse to discuss the opponents to the Plan solely in terms of NYU’s neighbors without reference to the internal faculty opposition.

  9. I welcome your editorial opposition to NYU 2031. I was surprised and puzzled, however, to find that you made no mention of the strong, ongoing faculty opposition to the plan organized by Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (FASP). It seems to me perverse to discuss the opponents to the Plan solely in terms of NYU’s neighbors without reference to the internal faculty opposition.

  10. As chair of the Committee to Preserve Our Neighborhood and a longtime Village resident, I know a lot of people who oppose the Sexton Plan (NYU 2031). Among them is Mark Crispin Miller, who organized the Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (FASP), and his many colleagues who along with the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) and Community members brought suit against NYU and the city administration for illegally seeking to utilize our parkland strips along Mercer and…

  11. As background: I am not a member of the NYU Faculty. I am a professor emeritus from another school in the City. I am a graduate of both NYU’s WSC and Law School.
    I have sold my loft of 30+ years on LaGuardia Place and moved as far away from NYU as possible and still reside in Manhattan. NYU has never been a good neighbor, and my professional dealings with them have shown them to be greedy, uncompromising and at times down-right nasty. They are scandal ridden and have done nothing to shed…

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