Controversy over NYU Expansion

Controversy over NYU Expansion

NYU prides itself on providing its students with a real feel for city life by having them traverse to different parts of the campus, which is sprawled across Greenwich Village. And yet, the campus will become even more scattered as a 20 year development plan sees NYU as owning parts of Downtown Brooklyn, SoHo and even a satellite campus on Goverrnors Island. The plan, termed “NYU 2031: NYU in NYC “, will add over 6 million square feet of classrooms, labs, and dorms, increasing the building space by approximately 40%.

More images and more about the expansion after the break.

The expansion is a key initiative of NYU president John Sexton, as the school’s enrollment reaches 41,000 and is consistently growing. The planning effort will include Grimshaw, Toshiko Mori Architect and SMWM, but as of right now, the plan is just a conceptual framework and no where near its final stages.

One area of the expansion includes the redevelopment of the Coles Gymnasium property at Houston and Mercer Streets to include retail at street level, and academic facilities and housing above.  A high rise tower may sit on I.M. Pei’s soon-to-be-landmarked Silver Towers property, which would be taller than Pei’s three existing towers on the site. For Washington Square Village, a one- to two-level plinth would create new academic spaces and plazas, with new buildings sitting at the ends.  As for the expansion to Governors Island, major obstacles must be handled, most notably the lack of any public transportation and the major infrastructure upgrades needed.

Already, there seems to be boisterous resistance to any expansion done within the village.  Residents and neighborhood preservationists are speaking out against the plans, and rightly so, as previous university expansion projects have been poorly handled.   Often times, NYU’s expansions include buildings whose scale and material choices do not lend themselves to their context.  The buildings seem bulky and out of place, often warranting harsh criticism from the community members.   This time, every aspect of the expansion will need public approvals whether it be from the Landmarks Preservation Commission or the City Planning Commission, etc.

However, the university is striving to complete a successful expansion project this time around, and has been taking steps to get the neighborhood involved.  In 2007, NYU started to broadcast their intentions and welcomed neighborhood feedback.   The university even held open houses  where the conceptual plans were mulled over and residents were encouraged to indicate a preference or distaste for each scheme.

“I expect that it is going to be a very long, difficult fight, from everybody’s point of view,” said Jo Hamilton, chair of Community Board 2. “There’s a history of people down here who not only care about their community but know how to put up a fight.”

While NYU has vast plans, it is important that the strong character of the existing neighborhood not be forgotten.  If more architecturally foreign buildings are placed within the village, it will continue to loose its cohesive identity. It’ll be interesting to see how this controversial expansion plays out, and we will be sure to keep you posted.

Source: The Observer as reported by Eliot Brown and Curbed

About this author
Cite: Karen Cilento. "Controversy over NYU Expansion" 17 May 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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