Bloomberg is defending New York University’s plan for a massive expansion of its facilities in Greenwich Village:
“New York University has an ambitious plan to add more than two-million-square-feet of space to its Greenwich Village campus. New classrooms, faculty offices, an athletic center and housing are all part of the proposal.
On Monday for the first time, Mayor Michael Bloomberg injected himself into the debate over the expansion plan, defending the university and displaying little patience for people who suggest that NYU scale back its vision.
“In the real world today, to have a world-class university, you’ve got to keep expanding and doing new things,” said the mayor.
He said that while there is a way to scale back, but it would come at a cost.
“I certainly think there is a way. I think you can also destroy NYU at the same time,” said Bloomberg.
Despite some strong support from the mayor, NYU’s expansion plan has generated some fierce opposition from Greenwich Village residents. Two months ago, the local community board voted unanimously against the project.
“A 20-year massive construction project in the middle of a residential area would have a devastating impact,” said Preservationist Andrew Berman.
Berman thinks NYU should be looking to grow in other city neighborhoods, like the Financial District or Downtown Brooklyn.
“An Empire State Building’s worth of space to be shoe-horned into the blocks south of Washington Square Park is just unimaginable. It would overwhelm the neighborhood,” said Berman.
Bloomberg said the university’s neighbors have nothing to complain about.
“NYU, and the area that surrounds it, people there — the value of their houses and the quality of their life is because of the proximity of NYU,” said the mayor.
Having the mayor on its side certainly helps NYU, but his support will hardly silence the heated debate about whether the school should be allowed to expand or hold back as some of its neighbors wish.”
Greenwich Village is no stranger to fighting back against supposed “development” plans. Back in the 1950s, residents of Greenwich Village defeated Robert Moses’ proposal to bisect the entire area with a highway. At that time, the residents were led by the indomitable Jane Jacobs, author of the Death and Life of Great American Cities. It is a good thing they defeated it as well, or else the village might have went the way of the South Bronx after the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway.
Bloomberg’s statement about NYU being the reason for Greenwich Village’s quality of life says it all. Of course, he would make no mention of the village’s Bohemian tradition. The hub of so many artists, writers and activists, Greenwich Village is a historic neighborhood with heart and soul. What has made the village great is its uniqueness, freedom and character. If anything, the chain stores, cookie-cutter night clubs and pretentious Sunday brunch places have detracted from the vibe of the area.
And who frequents these stores, clubs and restaurants? That’s right, the NYU students.
Bloomberg is of course thinking in terms of property values, which are only measurable in dollars and cents. The things that make New York City actually alive mean nothing to him. Jane Jacobs must be rolling in her grave.
This is yet another example of Bloomberg’s war on community. To him, New York City is a business and he is the CEO. His school closings, church evictions and now support for NYU betray, once again, his mad quest to sterilize the city.
NYU wants to do to the village what Columbia University has done to wide swaths of Harlem. The only difference is that the residents of the village have the resources and will to fight back, while Columbia has been able to have its way.
I have nothing against NYU. Diane Ravitch teaches there and they have given me some great student teachers. But there is a certain type of student associated with NYU, namely the type who can afford to shell out close to six-figures for their college educations. In the end, I see little difference between the education provided by NYU and that provided by the better CUNY schools aside from price.
People in Greenwich Village need to keep fighting. This is just part of Bloomberg’s onslaught against anything related to community and making the city a home to its people.