Lost Confidence: NYU’s Culture Within Expansion And Controversy [Part Three]

Earlier this year, John Leguizamo played a game of half-court basketball with a group of kids. A bidder won this chance to shoot hoops with the movie star through the Faculty Against Sexton Plan’s online auction, supported by a multitude of celebrities who call Greenwich Village home.

“I came to support the faculty of NYU,” said Leguizamo. “We don’t really have a lot of heroes in the modern world, and I found what they did so courageous and brave.”

The playful game took place on a basketball court in the Cole Sports Center, NYU’s gym that was built during the first year of the Reagan administration and to this day lacks air conditioning. On the other side of a thin divider, New York University’s basketball teams took on Washington University in St. Louis. Cheerleaders, pompoms and all, rushed into the court between plays, and a Bobcat, the school’s mascot named after it’s library catalog, danced and flailed its arms. On the side of the bleachers, a pep band performed appropriate pump-up songs throughout the game.

Putting down their instruments, the musicians returned to a quiet presence, often reading a textbook or scribbling in notebooks cast aside before the song. Other than the forced presence of the home school, the crowd’s loudest cheers and jeers came from the green-packed bleacher of fans who came to support the visiting school. NYU is not a sports school and never pretends to be so. Jokes about the football team, which seized to exist in 1953, seep into tours for prospective students and adorn the bookstore’s merchandize. Read more…

Lost Confidence: NYU’s Culture Within Expansion And Controversy [Part Two]

Part Two of Three. [Part One] [Part Two]

The original NYU 2031 plan, as proposed in 2010, would bring radical redevelopment to the Northern and Southern Superblocks. Created through the process of “slum clearance,” in the 1950s and now primarily owned by the university, these large slabs of land sit in the heart of Greenwich Village, just above Houston Street, and house hundreds of faculty members and their families.

The proposal squeezed twisted, boomerang-shaped buildings into Washington Square Village, wiping away playgrounds and storefronts. A massive structure of stacked towers, referred to as the “Zipper Building,” would replace the Cole’s Sport Center.  The grocery store at the corner of Bleeker and LaGuardia would disappear, and a new high-rise would take its place.

When revealed, the overall plan shocked faculty and community members, and helped catalyze the atmosphere of resentment and distrust that lead to the censures against John Sexton. In May of 2012, during the midst of budding contention and after receiving the city’s approval to build on the superblocks, Sexton created the University Space Priorities Working Group to evaluate the university’s space needs. Delivering the group’s charge, Sexton only attended the first meeting; afterward, the group made its conclusions and recommendations available to Sexton and the public at the same time.

Faculty members, sprinkled with a few student and administrative representatives, comprised the Working Group, which over the course of 18 months proved that a diverse and largely independent advisory group could arise within NYU’s structure. Read more…

John Sexton Provided His Son With University Housing

If you’re a Tisch graduate looking to make it on Broadway, or just someone aspiring to be an actor in the Big City, you may be concerned about finding affordable housing. Finding convenient living spaces in New York can be a bit of a hassle, especially if your paychecks aren’t exactly reliable. Fortunately for Jed Sexton, a former aspiring actor and son of NYU President John Sexton, housing was provided for him by a certain benevolent university.

In the early 1990s, our lovable, huggable, controversial figurehead John Sexton pulled some strings and scored his son an apartment at 240 Mercer Street, a NYU-owned building that was supposed to function as housing for NYU faculty and law students. Jed Sexton (the world’s other J-Sexy) lived in his own apartment at 240 Mercer until 2002, when he married Danielle Decrette. The two then moved into a newly renovated duplex (also at 240 Mercer), where they lived until 2007.

NYU Vice President of Public Affairs John Beckman explained, “In the early- to mid-1990s, the law school had a real problem filling its housing, so they took a number of steps to address the high and problematic vacancy rate.  The steps included renting units to students from other law schools (New York Law School, Cardozo Law School, and Brooklyn Law School); converting some of the residential space to office space; renting units to the family members of faculty—one of whom was Jed Sexton—and to law school administrative employees.” Read more…

Martin Lipton To Step Down As Chairman Of Board Of Trustees [UPDATED]

Martin Lipton will step down as chairman of NYU’s board of trustees next year, the New York Times reports.

“I am getting too old and have served too long,” Lipton told the Times this Friday.

Lipton, who has been head of the board of trustees for 16 years, will remain on the board, but in a lesser capacity, as one of the board’s 65 acting members. His exit from the leadership position comes at a critical moment of change for the University: Lipton and President John Sexton are two of NYU’s most powerful directors. But with Lipton stepping down next year, and Sexton following in 2016, the University will soon undergo a significant change in leadership.

Lipton’s resignation will also affect the decision of NYU’s next president. According to the Times, Sexton was Lipton’s “handpicked choice” for president in 2002. With Lipton absent from the next selection process, the board might take a different direction in selecting the next university president. Read more…

University Space Priorities Working Group Recommends NYU Move Forward With Construction On Coles Site

Rendering of current site conditions of north and south superblocks.

The University Space Priorities Working Group (USPWG) issued its final report yesterday, providing the university and John Sexton recommendations on how to proceed with construction on the two superblocks below Washington Square. As no new construction can begin on the north block – that housing the Washington Square Village – until 2022, the report focused on the south block and suggested the university move forward with construction on the site of Coles Sports Center.

According to their conclusions, the university is in fact pressed for space. The 26-member group, consisting of faculty and a few students, recommended new construction accommodate student needs. Suggested construction includes 80 classrooms, a large theatre for Tisch, four black box theatres, an athletic center, dormitories for 500 freshman, and housing 100 faculty members and their families.

This new construction would amount to 817,000 to 899,000 square feet in total.

Building on the superblock was also deemed financially viable. Based on the “NYU Capital Spending and Financing Plan 2013-2022,” the creation of a 670,000 square foot building on the Coles site would cost $727,000,000. While the USPWG endorsed a larger structure, representatives of the group assured the cost would not surpass a billion dollars. Read more…

What Re-Accreditation At NYU Really Means

A week and a half ago, John Sexton snuck an email into our inboxes with the subject, “Middle States Re-Accreditation Process.” It’s safe to say that some of us let it slip past without a proper look, but the topic is important—particularly at this stage of NYU’s history.

So what exactly is the deal?

Essentially, it revolves around the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which is a non-governmental association aimed at ensuring our region’s schools are up to par. The MSCHE, as it’s known — and of which NYU is a member — conducts an accreditation process, which indicates to the outside world that a college meeting its standards is educationally and organizationally sound.

The process works in 10-year cycles, consisting initially of a self-study and on-site evaluation visit, then a Periodic Review Report five years later, and interim reports in between as necessary. If schools don’t meet standards, they could get shut down. Read more…

De Blasio Appointed Some NYU Faculty, But What Does It Mean For NYU’s Future?

It’s still only the second month of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first term, but his delayed appointing of city officials to key positions has led to some flack in the media. But those same appointment decisions are now bringing NYU into the picture.

Last week, NYU Local covered De Blasio’s appointment of former NYU law professor Vicki Been as commissioner for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. It has since come to light that Been is not the only appointment of De Blasio’s that has affiliations with NYU—Zachary Carter, Anthony Shorris and Carl Weisbrod are all recent De Blasio appointments that have a certain violet shade to their history. (Fun fact: De Blasio himself is an NYU grad—Metropolitan Studies class of ‘84.) As NYU’s expansion plans have been a tad bit controversial, opponents of Sexton’s plans view these appointments as unfair advantage in NYU’s fight for expansion. A New York Post article on Sunday quoted a community activist as saying, “People are afraid [the university] will have undo influence.” Local decided to investigate, and here’s the lowdown on each of the new appointees, and what their history can tell us about their futures in New York politics and their future dealings with NYU.

Zachary Carter:

De Blasio appointed Carter as Corporation Counsel for the City of New York. He graduated from the NYU School of Law in 1975 and, until his appointment, served as a trustee at the School of Law as well as a Board member at the Brennan Center for Justice, the School of Law’s public policy and law institute. In addition to his titles at NYU, Carter also served as the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York from 1993-1999, and worked as a partner for the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP until the end of last year. Read more…

Sexton Keeps Cool At Latest Town Hall

On Tuesday afternoon, NYU President John Sexton once again stood in front of members of the student body in the first Town Hall assembly of the spring semester. This event, hosted by the Student Senators Council in the Grand Hall of GCASL, offered an open mic for students to voice various questions and concerns about anything and everything in the NYUniverse. (Those too afraid to face J.Sex in person or who were unable to make it tweeted in their questions using the hashtag #AskJohn).

The conversation varied from topics like Internet safety to more heated questions about finances and the administration’s response to student tragedy. Throughout the conversation, Sexton maintained a graceful state of cool; he casually chatted with the students and encouraged openness and honesty in their questions. In the short, two-hour segment, Sexton revealed some significant insight into his plans for the future of NYU and the strategies he will use to achieve these goals.

The first student to stand in front of the microphone asked our president about the privacy policies regarding video equipment in NYU buildings. Sexton, rocking a trendy purple v-neck, assured that all footage of students filmed by NYU cameras is kept safe and secure. He claimed that the university would not release any video or image of a student without his or her signature. The question of student privacy was revisited when a student visiting from NYU Abu Dhabi expressed concern that Tamkeen, an Emirate governmental partner of NYU AD, may have too much control over the student’s internet usage. Again, Sexton quieted any concerns about student privacy by reminding us that both portal campuses use private Internet tubes that are completely independent of local networks.

After answering his question, Sexton asked the student from Abu Dhabi to share a bit about his experience of studying in the Emirates. The two conversed about this unique portal campus and everything that is has to offer to full-time enrolled students as well as those visiting for single semesters. Eventually, the student presented the issue of the city’s changing geography; he was concerned that the campus’ future relocation to Saadiyat Island will isolate the students from the city center. Reminding us that Washington Square Park was once a distant farmland, Sexton urged the crowd to think of Abu Dhabi’s rapid development: in a short period of time, Saadiyat Island will surely be a neighborhood as bustling as Greenwich Village. Read more…

Let’s Review: NYU 2031

The NYU 2031 plan has divided the university and the broader Greenwich Village community since its conception. According to original projections, the expansion would provide the university an additional six million square feet of usable space. Yet, the 1.5 to 2.2 million square feet planned for the NYU’s “Core,” located around Washington Square Park, remains the heart of contention. While the university believes such an expansion is necessary in order to remain academically competitive, opposition believes the new construction threatens the neighborhood and community.

A recent ruling made by State Supreme Court Justice in Manhattan Donna Mills reinvigorated this dispute. The Silver Towers, Coles Sports, Center, and Washington Square Village sit upon two superblocks south of Washington Square; those blocks are also home to four pieces of parkland. The court ruling concluded that the city illegally approved construction on three of these parks. Another five claims against the city and university were dismissed.

Yet, both sides of the argument came to different interpretations of the ruling. Justice Mills did not denote the Mercer-Houston Dog Run, which neighbors Coles, as protected parkland. Therefore, the university sees plans for the Zipper Building, which will replace Coles, as still viable; the opposition disagrees. According to those against the expansion, such as the Faculty Against Sexton Plan, the university must return to square one. Read more…

BREAKING: State Supreme Court Ruling Puts NYU 2031 In Jeopardy

NYU’s expansion plans hit a snag today after State Supreme Court Justice in Manhattan Donna Mills ruled that the city illegally approved construction within public parklands without New York State’s approval. Mills dismissed five other claims against NYU’s pending construction on the two superblocks housing the Washington Square Village, Silver Towers, and Coles Sports Center.

The city’s approval of NYU’s proposal violated the Public Trust Doctrine and therefore allocated three strips of public parkland for non-park uses without proper approval. Now, the university must seek the State Legislator’s approval before using these small parklands for the project.

“So NYU has to go back to square one,” said Randy Mastro, lawyer for NYU’s opposition. “Its massive expansion project is now dead, absent State Legislature approval, and that is never going to happen. End of story.”

“This is a complex ruling, but the judgment is a very positive one for NYU,” said NYU Vice President of Public Affairs John Beckman, “five of the six petitioners’ claims were dismissed, the judge reaffirmed the City’s approval of the project, and most importantly the judge’s ruling allows us to move forward with our first planned project – the facility to provide new academic space on the site of our current gym.”

Justice Mills did not designate the Mercer-Houston Dog Run, running adjacent to Coles, as parkland. Therefore, the university may still be able to follow through with plans to build the Zipper Building, a large structure consisting of many towers.  Read more…