NYU’s F-Minus: Many Faculty Do Not Like University’s Village Expansion Plans

wsp protest e1334939831980 NYUs F Minus: Many Faculty Do Not Like Universitys Village Expansion Plans

The more things change... (Bowery Boys)

Opinions have been mixed on NYU’s plans to expand its campus in Greenwich Village. Construction unions and some local businesses like it because it means more work and more customers. Neighbors and some local businesses do not like it because it means more crowds and shadows and a loss of that Bohemian character. The mayor likes it, Scott Stringer likes the compromise he came up with, NYU antagonist Andrew Berman likes none of it.

What may (or may not, depending on one’s level of cynicism) surprise is that a good many NYU faculty do not like the expansion plan, either. According to a survey conducted by the NYU Faculty Senators Council (PDF), a representative body for professors and instructors, nearly two-thirds of faculty oppose the plan, compared to one-quarter that supports it. A full 40 percent percent of the faculty surveyed said they strongly oppose the plan.

The survey, which was conducted earlier this month, was distributed to nearly 4,000 faculty members, about 30 percent of whom responded. It is possible that this could have skewed the results due to selection bias—only those with strong opinions would respond. Underscoring this is the fact that 40 percent of respondents lived on the NYU superblocks directly affected by the plan, Washington Square Village and Silver Towers, while only 36 percent live outside the Village.

Regardless of bias in the survey, hundreds, if not thousands, of faculty members oppose the university’s expansion plan.

Even more damning, a good many of them believe that the plan will not achieve its primary goal. When asked to agree or disagree with the statement “NYU 2031 will meet the needs of NYU’s faculty and students & its research and academic programs,”  56 percent said it would not, with 27.5 percent strongly disagreeing with that position; 31 percent believed the expansion would improve the institution. Furthermore, 59 percent said they did not believe NYU would successfully carry out its expansion plan, compared to 30 percent who did.

Faculty also echoed complaints of community members that they were not sufficiently informed on NYU’s expansion plan. They expressed concerns about the plan’s impact on faculty recruitment and retention, tuition increases and the university’s fiscal future.

Nearly 70 percent of faculty members said they would be in favor of revisions to the plan, with the strongest support falling on what has become known as the Kimmelman plan, proposed by The Times‘ architecture critics, to eliminate the two boomerang buildings between Washington Square Village. (Forget not where more than a quarter of survey respondents live.)

That won 72 percent of support from those surveyed, followed by calls to move construction outside the superblocks altogether and calls not to include a hotel. Respondents were ambivalent on construction of a new tower on the Morton Williams site. That is somewhat ironic, considering that one of the few concessions won by Borough President Scott Stringer was that he got NYU to cut the size of the Morton Williams building in half.

NYU claims to be listening, though it also seems unlikely that it will actually change its plans to accommodate the concerns of faculty. “From the start, NYU’s plan for expanding its academic facilities has been a response to requests from faculty, programs, deans and schools for more and better space for research and teaching,” spokesman John Beckman said in an email. “It seeks a balance between building nearby and building in remote locations, and a balance between building in the neighborhood and building on our own property where our faculty live.”

He said the university would “reflect on the survey as we continue to go through the ULURP process.” When The Observerasked how the plan might actually be change, Mr. Beckman demurred, but he did say that “There has been extensive consultation with multiple groups  of faculty over many months.”

mchaban@observer.com