Yesterday’s protest against NYU’s proposed 40-story pinwheel tower brought an incensed crowd of roughly 60 to the courtyard between the I.M. Pei-designed building cluster on Bleecker and Mercer Streets. If built, the tower would be the tallest structure in Greenwich Village, and would house a university-run hotel and faculty housing.
Residents of the existing three buildings and of the surrounding neighborhood gathered in a corner of the courtyard, chanting anti-expansion slogans and bearing signs that read witty comments like “NYUZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS,” and “Stop NYU’s Tower of Babel.”
Andrew Berman, the head of the Village preservation society GVSHP, reminded the crowd that NYU not only needs landmark approval to build the structure, but must also be permitted to lift a deed restriction preventing development in the courtyard, something that was a condition of NYU receiving the land in the first place. “NYU is counting on us to have short memories. But this community does not forget,” shouted Berman. The area itself, he said, is zoned for residential space only, adding to the laundry list of municipal alterations needed to actually arrive at anything close to what NYU envisions for the open space. Gallery after the jump.
The Financial District, he said, was where NYU should put the tower, and any other buildings involved in the 2031 expansion plan. “That is contextual there, that is exactly the type of development that is needed down there, and is not needed here,” Berman said.
Zach Schwartz-Weinstein, a graduate student and TA for a MAP course, was the most overtly impassioned speaker at the makeshift podium, probably because protests are kind of his thing. He’s involved with GSOC-UAW, the union for graduate employees at NYU, who’ve been known to rally for recognition in front of Bobst from time to time. “We know what its like to be ignored and exploited by this university,” he said. ”NYU’s motto is ‘A private university in the public service.’ Who’s service is a hotel in? To make NYU more money at our expense. It’s long past time for NYU administrators to start treating New Yorkers with dignity and respect.”
According to Schwartz-Weinstein, 37 of the 40 floors of the tower will be taken up by the hotel, rendering its contribution to faculty housing quite small.*
Brett Gary, a Media, Culture and Communications professor, has lived in the building complex for 15 years. He acknowledged that NYU is indeed in need of more faculty housing, but was at the protest because “it should not here, in the middle of a collapsing real estate market.” What’s more, he says the new tower within the confined space would so diminish the quality of life of the faculty living there, perhaps to the point of losing its attractiveness to prospective professors.
“Every kid that lives in these buildings learns to ride their bike here. It’s a real treasure. [The tower] will bring thousands of people into this small space,” Gary said.
The dog run, the playground and the community garden within the complex are three of the strips of open space NYU would need to eliminate to build the tower. [Ed. note: Another NYU 2031 project -- the Zipper loft planned for the Coles site -- would require the elimination of the dog run, but the pinwheel tower plan "specifically retains the community garden and creates a new playground on the Morton Williams site," writes NYU Spokesman John Beckman. The dog run would also be rebuilt elsewhere within the superblock.] Residents we spoke to were uniformly furious at this possibility. Many brought their children, who carried hand-drawn signs of varying degrees of heartwrenching, complete with adorably misspelled pleadings for their playground.”The plase will be crowdid weth pepol,” read one young boy’s posterboard.
Tonight’s landmark committee meeting will could help determine the fate of the proposed tower, when NYU presents their landmark application for a committee vote. Their vote, however, is only advisory, not binding.
* UPDATE: NYU Spokesman John Beckman writes that Schwartz-Weinstein is incorrect. “If the tower were to contain a hotel, it would be about [a] 50/50″ split between housing and hotel floors. He added that the tower would only have 38 stories.