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Planning Vote Allows NYU Expansion Plan To Move Forward

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The City Planning Commission this morning overwhelmingly gave the green light to New York University's proposed Village expansion plan.

The school's plan includes the construction of four high-rises on two university-owned blocks bounded by West Third and Houston streets and by LaGuardia Place and Mercer Street.

The structures, which can not can not be taller than any existing ones at the expansion site, will house everything from classrooms to auditoriums to faculty living space.

"To make the buildings a better fit for the neighborhood the modifications include reductions in height," noted city planning commissioner Amanda Burden.

The vote comes after 11 hours of public hearings during which many Greenwich Village businesses and residents expressed concerns that the planned buildings and commercial development would be too big and out of character for the neighborhood.

The commission later scaled back the plans from 2.5 million square feet to a little over two million, scratching a proposed hotel, temporary gymnasium and underground classrooms.

A public access committee will also be set up in the future to ensure the surrounding neighborhood has access to open spaces that are part of the development.

"We started out with a plan that articulated what we needed at the time, these modifications are certain things we can live with and there's no reason we can't agree with the commission," said NYU Representative Alicia Hurley.

Critics are now gearing up to lobby the City Council to kill the deal which NYU praised is a major step forward for the university.

"This is more or less a rubber stamp of the project which we knew was gonna happen. The mayor had said he wanted this to happen. And the city planning commission pretty much goes along with the mayor. The fight goes to the City Council now though where we're hopeful we'll be able to beat this plan back," said Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Historic Preservation.

"The village is a unique area. It has a lower density than most other neighborhoods in the city. We're very concerned it gets protected, y'know, that you can see the sky," said Judy Paul of the Washington Square hotel.

A final hearing and vote by the City Council could take place sometime by mid-summer.

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