BY SARAH TREFETHEN
The Real Estate Board of New York has expressed disappointment after Community Board 2 rejected New York University’s plans to expand.
“Universities in general and NYU in particular are great economic engines for New York City,” said REBNY president Steve Spinola. “The city’s economic vitality is partially dependent upon the ability of NYU and other institutions to grow and it is disappointing that the local community board fails to recognize the value of NYU and its proposal.”
Saying it “threatens to destroy the very essence of the local neighborhood from which it benefits handsomely,” Community Board 2 unanimously resolved to reject the plan at a meeting last Thursday.
“The current proposal is far too big for a dense residential neighborhood such as Greenwich Village and would have severely damaging and long-lasting consequences to the neighborhood’s essential character and resources,” stated the board’s resolution.
The community board is the first of several agencies that will assess the university’s proposal. The board’s resolution is a non-binding recommendation to the city-wide officials who will have final say on the project.
Nonetheless, Brad Hoylman, board chairman, hopes the vote will carry weight.
“I hope the detailed resolution from the community board will provide a roadmap for our elected officials as we continue discussions with the City and NYU and helps send this plan back to the drawing board,” he said in a statement.
In a statement responding to the vote, NYU vice president Alicia Hurley made note of the five years the university has spent consulting the local community on the design of its plans. She also pointed out that university designed to plan to be executed without the use of eminent domain.
Columbia University, which is not mentioned in Hurley’s statement, is pursuing an expansion of its own that relies on eminent domain to acquire land in west Harlem.
“The University will review the resolution that Community Board 2 has put forth, but looking beyond tonight’s vote, we look forward to continuing the discussion with the broader community and the City about our academic needs,” Hurley said in her statement.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is the next politician who will weigh in on the proposal. Like the community board, the borough president’s assessment is a recommendation.
The Planning Commission will approve or deny the plan, subject to review by the City Council and the Mayor.
The University’s proposal includes the construction of a multi-tower, mixed-use “zipper building” with a maximum height of 27 stories, a 14-story building to be shared between a public school and student housing, and two new academic buildings of 14 and 8 stories connected by below-grade classroom space.
The community board’s resolution cites a number of concerns with the plan.
The proposed rezoning would open the door for extensive commercial development, according to the resolution.
It also calls for the transfer of city-owned land that is mapped as streets to the university, while the community board would rather see the land remain in public control and remapped as city parks.
The board also objects to the elimination of existing urban renewal deed restrictions which prohibit new development until expiration in 2021, and expressed concern that the construction would disrupt the neighborhood for decades.
Meanwhile, REBNY has said it will continue to support the expansion.
“We are hopeful that as the plan continues to move through the [land use review] process, decision makers with a broader view will support the process,” added Spinola.
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