NYU has a plan – a big plan to establish an even greater presence in and around Washington Square Park. And while there is no Lorax in Greenwich Village to protect the parks, gardens, and playgrounds from these expansive construction plans, or NYU 2031 as it has come to be known, there is a woman fighting to keep the towering buildings from casting their gloomy shadows over Washington Square Park. She is Deborah Glick. And while she may not speak for the trees, she is doing her darndest to speak for the community.
In February Ms. Glick held a rally at Judson Memorial Church just off Washington Square Park. Residents of Greenwich Village, volunteers of the LaGuardia Corner Gardens, and members of the Community Action Alliance on NYU 2031 made up a restless crowd, one ready to take a stand. The outpouring of support was asked to write to their district delegates, letters with real emotions and real opinions instead rather than form ones. They were asked to ban together and fight for what they believe in, for the community they want to save. “We are a neighborhood. We are a community. We intend to stay that way. Future generations depend on each successive generation to fight. NYU is part of our community but we can’t let them barrel through with their Village swallowing plans. They need to respect the Village,” said a vehement Ms. Glick.
There were light-hearted laughs and a few soft cheers when Ms. Glick signed off, “Towers in parks. Yuck.” But facts are facts. Ms. Glick and her team are standing their ground, and standing strong, against the plan would bring even more construction to a neighborhood that has only recently begun seeing green in their park again. The NYU plan proposes the development of 2.5 million square feet of “new mixed-use space within the two superblocks including the creation of academic space, a dorm, a hotel and a new gymnasium.” There would be a total of four buildings on two blocks.
NYU Spokesman John Beckman insists that NYU 2031 is in everyone’s best interest and is not a change that the community should be worried about. They should be embracing the opportunities it will bring. “Strong universities are essential to the future of New York City, and growth is important to our academic excellence. [Our plan] seeks to balance NYU’s academic needs with the concerns of our neighboring community. Fully half of our growth over the next 20 years will be outside Greenwich Village. In addition to supporting NYU’s academic mission, this proposal will create thousands of jobs and increased economic opportunity for many New Yorkers and provide new open space for the community,” Mr. Beckman said.
But the people of the village aren’t stepping aside. The president of Friends of LaGuardia Place, Larry Goldberg, took his time at the rally to pull at the heartstrings of everyone in attendance, as if they weren’t already passionate about the resistance. “My family lives here in the Village. My daughter’s first word was ‘light,’ and now NYU is taking all the light with their big buildings,” Mr. Goldberg said.
Volunteers of the LaGuardia Corner Gardens share Mr. Goldberg’s sentiments. “The LaGuardia Gardens are over 30-years-old. The volunteers have put thousands and thousands of hours into it. We get visitors from all around the world. We grow organic vegetables, and give those vegetables and flowers to residents. We even have Monarch butterflies,” volunteer Barbara Cahn said.
And another volunteer, Jeffrey Rowland, added, “Volunteers have spent over $60,000 of their own money to support the gardens. They [NYU] want to do more construction. In as little as three years of not existing we [the gardens] won’t be there anymore. It will be a very big loss to this community.”