Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Myths vs. Facts: NYU 2031

Myths vs. Facts: What NYU Says about its 2031 Plan vs. The Truth about the NYU 2031 Plan prepared by the Office of Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick based on discussions and input from community members and groups.

NYU Says: it’s increasing public open space.

The Truth is: the City’s definition of open space requires a bench to be present to be deemed open space. Existing lawns and gardens without a bench don’t’ technically qualify as open space and so their loss isn’t taken into account. Even when any rational person would recognize these dramatic changes as a loss of open space, the rules allow NYU to make this specious claim.

NYU Says:  we own the land, let us develop within the space we currently have.

The Truth is:
1)    in order for NYU to go ahead as proposed, they would need to acquire 2 strips of NYC DOT owned land, which is currently being used as Park space.
2)    NYU only owns the land (the superblocks) because public streets were demapped by the City to create an affordable housing project, with open space. It was a mistake to trade public land for private development in the first place and NYU should not be given a blank slate in perpetuity to do what they want.

NYU Says: the plan won’t add much density, since 1 million of the 2.45 million square feet of new space will be underground.

The Truth is: there are significant environmental impacts of building underground, not the least of which is the high water table and the impact of displaced water on foundations of the surrounding historic buildings. The below grade space still requires incredible above ground disruption to construct it.

NYU Says: it needs a temporary gym.

The Truth is: despite multiple requests, NYU has never given the details of what size facility or hours of use the gym needs to be in order to fulfill Division 3 requirements. With community support, an alternate location might be found that would allow NYU to maintain its Division 3 status, while sparing the North Block the undue burden of construction of a temporary location that will only destroy gardens, trees and playgrounds. Additionally, it would be replaced by another building, after about 10 years.

NYU Says: this project will bring jobs to the area.

The Truth is: Any construction work brings temporary jobs. Many of those are likely to be jobs for workers from other places. While new jobs- even temporary ones- are generally desirable, the damage to the community may not be worth it. The impact locally may be to drive people away from an area under so much construction, thereby reducing local jobs. In addition, the long term impact may be to deter tourists who are attracted to the neighborhood’s low rise character and open space, which provides more air and light than mid-town. The construction and resulting pedestrian congestion would discourage people from coming to the neighborhood.

NYU Says: it needs more space to meet needs of a growing student body.

The Truth is: they have no numbers on how they want to break down the proposed space- ie, how many classrooms, how many dorm rooms, etc. If the need is so high, how can they not quantify it? They have also indicated that much of this is to “bring students into the Core campus,” which will necessarily result in much greater density.

NYU Says: it will donate $23 million value of a space for a public school.

The Truth is:
1)    NYU is not donating anything but the air for a school to be built. No walls, floors or costs of construction will be contributed by NYU for the construction of the school. The $23 million value is the cost NYU paid to buy Morton Williams.
2)    Since NYU has dragged its feet for so long with a promised school, an actual school, at 75 Morton Street, has been given to the community. It’s unclear if a school is what the community is most in need of at this point.
3)    The NYC Department of Education and School Construction Authority have not indicated that there is a need and/or desire for a school to be located at this site.
4)    The parent community is not especially happy about a school located in a dorm with a roof-top recreation space. All in all, NYU has waited so long on this issue, it’s value to the community has diminished.
5)    NYU has several unfulfilled promises for a public school dating back to 1960.
6)    If a school is not built, the space reverts back to NYU use to do as they please without additional public input.

NYU Says: there are no negative environmental or general negative impacts from the construction or as a result of the final construction.

The Truth is: While an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was conducted, the validity of the EIS process has been questioned for years and this EIS is no different. For example, this EIS states that despite the projected increase of 10,000-12,000 pedestrian trips to the area, there would be no significant impact on the crosswalks or sidewalks within a-quarter mile radius of the site. The only mitigation required to accommodate the new pedestrians would be to widen a crosswalk and lengthen the walk signal by 3 seconds. Anyone who has spent time in the area knows that the sidewalks are already overcrowded and increased pedestrians and decreased open space will only exacerbate the situation.

The real truth is that NYU, for years, has tried to create a campus to compete with other Universities. This plan is an NYU Administrative scheme and doesn’t reflect the needs of students or faculty, and certainly not the community. Building a University Empire isn’t new, threats to The Village community aren’t new, but our determination, unity, and channeling of previous guardians of The Village is renewed. 

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