181 Mercer Street Construction Resumes

Despite complaints from locals and community organizations, NYU continues construction at 181 Mercer Street after the state allowed construction projects for schools to be considered essential.

The building at 181 Mercer is in the early stages of construction. NYU has resumed construction at the site after New York State deemed school projects essential. (Photo by Corey Rome)

Construction at 181 Mercer Street has recently been deemed essential work, after New York revised original restrictions to include public and private school construction projects under the umbrella of essential construction, allowing for work to continue during the pandemic. 

This revision to the restrictions is one of the earliest steps toward reopening the state, but it poses some potential issues, including disturbing New Yorkers now working from home.

The project at 181 Mercer Street is scheduled to be completed by late 2021 and open for 2022’s fall semester. The construction process is currently shifting from finishing the structure and beginning work on its facade.   

In the past, locals have expressed discontent with an earlier set of modifications made regarding the construction project, which would alter the sizes of the dorm towers and move one dorm tower closer to Mercer Street. The project has also faced criticism from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which cited the building plans — as well as the whole of NYU’s 2031 Expansion Plan — which said that the plans impeded the historic character of the neighborhood. Those in the neighborhood have also said they were concerned with the potential for these changes to block natural light for the surrounding buildings and lead to poor air quality. 

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“NYU is committed to minimizing the effects of dust, noise, and traffic in the vicinity of the construction site and has developed a plan with Turner Construction Company,” the construction plan’s website reads. “As with any active construction site, dust may be generated in the area immediately surrounding the work and noise and odors may be generated by hand tools and mechanical equipment that will be used to cut, bolt, weld and fasten steel.”

Once construction is complete, 181 Mercer will offer students more classrooms, housing options for first-years, performance arts and training spaces, communal spaces and a new athletic facility.

The project boasts 7,500 square feet for public and community use, which is in line with a commitment NYU made in 2012 to enhance its spaces for the public. The building will also adhere to NYU’s Climate Action Plan, which was a previous concern raised by an NYU faculty member, who said NYU’s leadership was disregarding the environmental impact of the building’s initial design.

“NYU will reduce the amount of energy used in buildings through conservation, ‘green’ construction and renovation, retrofits and upgrades, and operational innovations to run buildings more effectively,” the plan states. “Initial efforts have already resulted in 20% emissions cuts.”

The facility will also include a 350-seat theater and NYU’s first orchestral ensemble room.

NYU has expressed its awareness of how this project will be a greater inconvenience due to New York’s stay-at-home order, but construction is planned to fully resume. NYU wants to avoid hemorrhaging more money, the webpage said.

“We recognize that construction is a particular inconvenience now for those of our neighbors now working from home,” the site stated. “However, given the importance of continuing this work in order to avoid further financial loss to the University and meet the deadlines set for occupancy of 181 Mercer Street, we respectfully ask for your patience and understanding at this time.”

 Email Andrew Califf at [email protected]

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