NYU is a big bully of a university with over 45,000 students and no real campus. Well, it has a sort-of campus as in “The Entire New York City Bohunk Neighborhood Called Greenwich Village” — and it isn’t folly to argue NYU not only wants to own all of Greenwich Village, it wants to be Greenwich Village… and probably re-brand the area, “The NYU Green.”
As you can imagine, the non-NYU students who currently reside in Greenwich Village despise the school’s ongoing and aggressive attempts over the last couple of decades to undermine the status of their lives by buying up and tearing down the real estate that makes up their little corner of the world:
New York University says it needs more dormitories, classrooms, athletic and performance spaces and a hotel to accommodate its burgeoning student body and compete with national universities, and it wants to erect four buildings amid two sprawling apartment complexes north of Houston Street.
The square footage of the four buildings, the tallest of which would be 25 floors, would nearly equal that of the Empire State Building.
The local community board recommended unanimously last month that the Council reject the university’s plan — known as NYU 2031 — and the zoning changes it would require. The board said that the proposed buildings were too dense and tall and that the addition of thousands of students and workers would erode the character of a still quaint and offbeat city quarter.
NYU — openly referred to on the back streets of Greenwich Village as “Not For You” by their residential neighbors — has been through these sorts of land grabs before and one effort, in particular, was historically hallmarked by stunningly poor Public Relations and by a lack of Human Kindness in the public square. Provincetown Playhouse, anyone?
What NYU failed to recognize in its Provincetown Playhouse prize is that a theatre is not just an address and four walls. A theatre is an essence of the bits of memory and sniffs of dust and the sound of thundering applause of every performance pinned to the walls and embedded into the floorboards — that is what constructs the tenons and fibers of the empty space — and there is the unfettered spirit of humanity encapsulated in ancient brick and in the swirling, tenuous, spores of antiquity; and it all could have been preserved or, at least restored, to its original magnificence — if only NYU had cared to do so.
NYU honored none of that.
Even though NYU stumbled in the past, I actually support this latest expansion. NYU is an excellent school and, if they try to match the spirit and emotion of Greenwich Village, then the proposal should go full-forward.
NYU needs to grow their campus boundaries upward in order to get bigger and serve the needs of their growing student population. Like it or not, they are already Greenwich Village. The independent identity of that neighborhood is forever a Violet Bobcat and we’d better try to get along with that hungry beast, lest it decide to tear down our studio dwelling and shove us over into Brooklyn where the school dare not want to tread to expand.
I promise you NYU will win all of its expansion desires.
You can bet your house on it.