Cutting Scott Stringer: Critics Claim Borough President’s NYU Compromise Falls Short, Some Prepare Legal Action

52f8194c650b22b00c2a06a91ceb2a68 Cutting Scott Stringer: Critics Claim Borough President’s NYU Compromise Falls Short, Some Prepare Legal Action

The dean of NYU.

Facing pressure from all sides, Borough President Scott Stringer managed to extract a number of concessions from NYU over its planned expansion in Greenwich Village. However many opponents of the plan, including community groups and local politicians, feel the borough president did not go far, and they had harsh words for the borough president as a result.

“Although I am appreciative of the efforts of Borough President Stringer to negotiate with NYU, the end result is minimal change and do little to negate the devastating impact the NYU 2031 Plan will have on the surrounding community,” Assemblywoman Deborah Glick said in an acerbic statement. “There are no real concessions in this agreement.” She added that NYU’s plan “continues to be a travesty” and suggested that any concessions were factored into the plan from the start “to give the appearance that they are responding to community outrage.”

In his compromise, submitted yesterday to the Department of City Planning, Mr. Stringer got NYU to reduce the size of their project by 377,000 square feet, or roughly 16 percent of the 2 million-square-foot-project. A temporary gym will be eliminated from the plan, which community groups saw as a sixth construction element, meaning more time and headaches. Two strips of land will not be ceded to NYU, ostensibly increasing public space and eliminating some amount of underground facilities, though critic charge the land is not NYU’s to cede. A number of the buildings will be reduced in size and scale, in the hope of creating a more open plan that blocks less light and sky from the surrounding buildings and neighborhood.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation already told The Observer that he was surprised how cheaply the borough president had been bought off.

“This proposal, if approved, would be character-defining for Greenwich Village in all the wrong ways,” Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council said. His group is among those joining a legal effort to challenge the rezoning led by NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan and the Greenwich Village Society. The groups today retained politically connected attorneys Jim Walden and Randy Mastro of Gibson Dunn to help lobby against the plan and possibly pursue legal action against it.

“By all accounts, this is a massive project that will take two decades to complete and fundamentally alter the character of this historic Greenwich Village neighborhood,” the attorneys said in a release. “It is therefore imperative that all of this project’s significant impacts, environmental and otherwise, be fully vetted before any decision is made here.  We aim to see to it that City officials meet all of their legal obligations and afford meaningful community input.”

While few people are satisfied with the compromise reached by Borough President Stringer, some at least expressed appreciation for the effort.

“I applaud Borough President Stringer for persuading NYU to finally heed the calls to improve its proposal,” said Judy Paul, leader of Neighbors for a Sustainable Village, a 60-strong business group.  “But for the many small businesses in Greenwich Village, it’s imperative that NYU improve its proposal further during the coming months to ensure that it will balance its need to expand with the community’s needs.”

The community board, which voted unanimously against the plan earlier this year, was equally unimpressed. “Of course it’s not close to being acceptable but I think he got some major concessions that the community board identified,” one board member said, “no temporary gym, no dorm above school, saved park strips from development and 17-20% less bulk.”

And while Congressman Jerrold Nadler applauded the efforts of his political mentee, our colleagues at The Politicker reported yesterday that he believes “there is still significant work to be done.”

For its part, the borough president’s office rejects any such criticisms.

“The idea that our agreement does not go far enough is a false premise,” spokeswoman Audrey Gelman told The Observer. “The top priorities of the community were eliminating the temporary gym, preserving the park strips around Washington Village, solidifying the commitment for a new public school and reducing the project’s overall density, including the elimination of dorms. The Borough President’s agreement addressed each and every one of these priorities.”

In the borough president’s view, this was the best option for everyone. “There are some who would prefer to say no to everything,” Ms. Gelman said. “But it’s the job of leaders like Borough President Stringer to strike a balance between the economic interests of this city and the legitimate community concerns of Greenwich Village residents.”

mchaban [at] observer.com | @MC_NYC