‘In and of the city’ mantra compromised

By WSN Editorial Board, 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]