Full City Council Approves NYU Expansion, Promise Fight's Just Begun

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Full City Council voted today, 44-1, to approve NYU's modified expansion plan, despite continued community resistance. Speaker Christine Quinn called the modified plan significantly smaller than the original proposal and was satisfied with the outcome, reported WNYC. (by Alissa Fleck and Paul Bisceglio) The decrease in size from approximately 2 million square feet down to 1.9 million, including reduction in density and increases in open space, did not mean much to the plan's numerous staunch opponents, many of whom have opposed it in its entirety from the beginning. This included the 37 NYU departments which passed resolutions against the plan. Many of these groups have sought legal council, according to WNYC. Additionally, various writers have compiled a collection of protest pieces inspired by the expansion, titledWhile We Were Sleeping: NYU and the Destruction of New York. Councilman Charles Barron was again the only holdout, imploring other councilmembers to heed the voices of Greenwich Village residents over those who may avoid the plan's direct impact by not living in the construction zone. Enough Greenwich Village residents, NYU faculty and other community members attended the vote to fill the Council chambers to full capacity. Opponents chanted "Chin and Quinn did us in!" from the balcony just before the actual vote took place, the Village Voice reported, and persisted as Quinn repeatedly called for silence. The entire balcony was escorted out of City Hall prior to the vote. "This is a sad day for democracy in New York City," said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, in a statement. Berman has been a major face for the opposition since the plan's inception. He added his group would seek every possible legal avenue in continuing to fight the plan. "The NYU 2031 plan has little to do with education, and everything to do with real estate and expansion for expansion's sake," said Berman. His group and others have joined together in formation of a city-wide campaign in protest: StandUp4NYC. Jim Walden, an attorney with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher representing GVSHP, said: "We look forward to our day in court." Many residents in Greenwich Village at the time of the vote also expressed dissatisfaction with the proposal, citing construction noise, congestion and loss of a sense of community as major concerns. "We don't want another Midtown," said one community member. Two others were more willing to embrace the incentives that NYU included in its modified plan. "We're getting a rent reduction," said a resident of the University's Silver Towers, an iconic residential complex on Bleecker Street in the middle of the proposed construction area. "So while we aren't thrilled about [the expansion plans], that's why a lot of us [in the Towers] are keeping our mouths shut." (New York Press has contacted NYU housing and is waiting to confirm the details of this reduction.) Construction on the plan is set to begin in 2014.

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