In his recent conditional approval of NYU's 2031 core campus expansion plan, Borough President Scott Stringer was able to take a few items off the massive table. But many local residents, preservationists and politicians still believe the plan is huge, despite its recent reining-in. The revised plan, sent by Stringer to the Department of City Planning last Wednesday, includes a density reduction of 19 percent, or 377,000 square feet, of the project's proposed 2 million square feet. Further, public strips of parkland around Washington Square Village will be designated and preserved, while the temporary gymnasium on the site of two community playgrounds will be eliminated, as will be the proposed dormitories in the Bleecker Building. An affirmation was also secured regarding NYU's commitment to provide space for a K-8 school. Other modifications to the plan include building reductions to increase open space and light and setting limits on the hours of construction. Stringer has also emphasized the economic benefits of NYU's plan for New York City, which promises to create around 9,500 permanent jobs and as many as 18,200 new construction jobs over the next 20 years. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), was not impressed by the modifications to the plan. "Paring down the buildings in the NYU plan doesn't address the fundamental problem; unless NYU develops a long-term strategy for directing its growth outside of the neighborhood, they will be taking over more and more and more of the Village, tipping the balance of neighborhood character and becoming more and more of the overwhelming and dominant presence in the area," he said Berman noted that other schools such as Yale, Harvard and Brown had all faced similar issues. "Those schools managed to work with their respective municipalities for winning solutions, including satellite campuses in nearby areas of the city where large-scale growth was wanted and needed and would add to economic development and diversity, not deaden it," he explained. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said he would give serious thought to any NYU plan to return to the borough with a renewed presence. "It would be a great asset both for the Bronx and NYU if the school would consider returning to the Bronx and building a campus in our beautiful borough," Diaz said. "The Bronx has so much to offer-we already have many high-quality higher education institutions, and our borough is filled with rich history, culture, food and a diverse population." Berman said that the revised plan still dooms the Village to be overtaken more each year by NYU. He added that Stringer's vote was particularly disappointing since he didn't hold a public hearing on the plan before making his decision, and he didn't heed the recommendations of his own community task force on NYU development. "The amount of growth proposed is titanic and, just like the ship, it might sink the community," said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council (HDC), of the modified NYU plan. "I believe, in terms of process, the [borough president] should have held a public hearing on this," Bankoff said. "I know he has been working hard for several years on this topic, but by not holding a public hearing on it, he has deprived the people who have just come to an understanding of the proposal a chance to voice their concerns to him." Bankoff said that by not holding a public hearing, Stringer missed the chance to better inform his decision-making. Both the HDC and the GVSHP are part of a group, which also includes NYU faculty, that has retained the law firm of Gibson and Dunn to mount a legal challenge to the NYU plan. Assemblywoman Deborah Glick said in a statement that the NYU plan "continues to be a travesty" and that only minimal concessions were secured by the Stringer negotiations. However, Brad Hoylman, chair of Community Board 2, which voted against the NYU plan, had some positive comments regarding Stringer's efforts. "The agreement announced today by the borough president with NYU is an important initial step that addresses major concerns identified by the Community Board, and represents the first time NYU has committed to any changes to its massive expansion plan," Hoylman said. But he also reiterated that the board would continue to seek additional changes to the plan in the ULURP process with the City Council.
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