The freshman class of NYU is entering at a pivotal moment. NYU’s presence in the community of Greenwich Village has been the source of controversy over the past few years, largely thanks to the NYU 2031 expansion plan, which has proposed the rezoning of local parks and buildings for university use. After the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the 2031 plan did not impinge on protected parklands, NYU is now free to proceed as scheduled. Still, community leaders and faculty members alike believe that, by focusing on expansion, NYU is becoming less like a university and more like a real estate developer. Though the university’s main draw is the ability to learn amidst a dynamic, authentic community, the administration’s own actions may end up changing our campus footprint for the worse.
The administration’s perennial justification for expanding its facilities has been the good of the students. It cites increasing enrollment and per-student resource figures as reasons to rezone and repurpose, to seize more of Greenwich Village as its own. But what they fail to realize is that the main appeal of the university is not its buildings, but its location. Students may have come here for immersion in the community, but as apartment blocks become administrative buildings and classrooms, the thing that truly makes up this community — its people — may not be around for much longer.
If students want to make the most of this city, they must begin to understand the role they play in it. Becoming integrated into the community, becoming a real New Yorker, is all about give and take. Taking in the sights is important, but just as important is being informed about the neighborhood and the role that each student can play in it. It is that extra step of engagement that elevates a resident above a visitor.
After that comes the giving. Administrators have been deaf to the concerns of the community and faculty mostly because they firmly believe that they are working for the betterment of their students. But by speaking out, students can make it clear expansion is not the answer, that they came to NYU not for glimmering new facilities but for the community of the city. Meanwhile, regularly volunteering at local charities and participating in community events outside of NYU remind students why the Village is so worth preserving.
These are the experiences that cannot be compensated for with new academic buildings and gym renovations. As a new year arrives and new students make their way into the city, the administration needs to consider what its university truly wants to offer. NYU can do with being a smaller school, but the community on which it has made its fame can never be replaced.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. A version of this article appeared in the Saturday, August 29 print edition. Email Richard Shu at [email protected]