Editors Tugging on BP Stringer to Give NYU’s Expansion Thumbs Up, Shop Owners at Odds

NYU's John Sexton and the Beep. Whose side is he on? (NYU)

The vote of Borough President Scott Stringer has become the hottest commodity since, well, the Park Slope Food Co-op’s Israel vote last night. Everyone is leaning on the Beep to give the project a full-throated yes or no, from construction unions to community groups. No sooner did a group of 44 Village organizations send a letter to Mr. Stringer’s office opposing the plan than the Post has come out with an editorial urging him to support it.

The Post calls the vote “a no-brainer” before it goes on to presume Mr. Stringer’s stance, which he has yet to reveal to The Observer‘s knowledge (and repeated inquiry):

Any would-be mayor should embrace such dividends with unqualified enthusiasm.

Alas, not Stringer. He’s sidled up to the predictably short-sighted, knee-jerk anti-development opposition from neighbors of NYU’s Greenwich Village campus.

This follows on the heels of similar editorials in Crain’s and the Daily News, where the editorial board described Mr. Stringer’s desire to “thread the needle” as “disturbing” development. If anything, quashing thoughtful compromise is what is disturbing.

Following yesterday’s letter, an NYU spokesman pointed out that the Greenwich Village Chamber of Commerce is among the groups supporting the plan. Part of what makes NYU’s expansion so complex is that in an already very busy and crowded neighborhood, there can never be a unanimity of opinions. The Observer received a letter today from a group of 24 local businesses opposing the plan (see below). A complex plan breeds a  complex response.

That is why Mayor Ed Koch’s recent op-ed for the plan is so intriguing. He opens with an anecdote about having lunch in the Village as he often does.

Every time I do that and see NYU students of every imaginable racial and religious group walking and talking together, I say to whomever I’m with, “These students make the Village what it is. They keep us at the center of thought; they keep us young, and keep the Village an interesting place in which to live. They keep New York competitive with the rest of the U.S.—and, indeed, the world.”

How lucky for the Village. But will more buildings—and not necessarily more students, as the plan calls for an expansion of space but not attendance—really improve the qualities Mayor Koch so enjoys when he is having lunch? What if his outdoor cafe were cast in shadow?

What if, more importantly, NYU shared the wealth, as many critics are begging it to do—among them the community board, the Municipal Art Society, and even Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelan—and limited, but did not eliminate, its expansion on these blocks and instead focused more of its efforts in place like Downtown Brooklyn.

The fact NYU and its backers seem to continually ignore is that no one is saying it should not expand, people are only questioning the need to expand on these two blocks, and to do it with facilities like a hotel, a gym and possibly more housing.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @MC_NYC

Letter to Stringer from Small Businesses

Editors Tugging on BP Stringer to Give NYU’s Expansion Thumbs Up, Shop Owners at Odds