NYU President John Sexton and a number of other university officials appeared in the City Council chamber at City Hall this morning to make their case for the school's NYU 2031 expansion plan. Also in attendance were several hundred hissing and grumbling Village residents and preservationists who view NYU's plan as unacceptable overdevelopment of their beloved neighborhood, including star opponent Matthew Broderick. Everyone, for and against, was appearing before the council's Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, chaired by Councilman Mark Weprin, who tried to maintain order by encouraging audience members to contain their boos and express approval through the use of "jazz hands". We can't believe we missed getting a picture of Weprin demonstrating how that is done.
After Sexton and his posse made their case for a need to expand NYU's core space in the Village—not to increase the size of the student body, but so that existing students could go to the gym, have enough space to go to class, and go on to cure cancer and win Tony Awards—committee members had some questions. Council member Margaret Chin went first and didn't pull any punches from the bell, saying "I strongly believe this plan is unacceptable in its current form." Chin went on to say that anything outside the needs of classrooms, student housing, and faculty space should not be allowed at the expense of current residents. It seemed like Chin was telegraphing the outcome of what may follow. Its most vested council member on the committee seemed resigned to the fact that NYU's plan is going to be approved, but was arguing for its most limited form.
Councilman Dan Garodnick seemed incredulous at NYU's claims that increased construction around the superblock core campus would lead to growth in open space for neighborhood residents. In a back and forth with an NYU speaker they resolved that the plan would lead to a decrease in unbuilt space in the area, but an increase in publicly available space to which neighborhood residents would be allowed access.
Council member Jessica Lappin said she thought the plan was "too dense, too big, too tall, and too much." This elicited a huge round of silent jazz handing from the audience, to Committee Chair Weprin's delight. Lappin made some pointed comments about NYU's continued comparison of its situation to that of what it described as "peer institutions" against which it competed for students. Lapping pointed out that due to growth in recent years, NYU has made itself several orders of magnitude larger than the peers to which it was comparing itself, and was closer in size to a medium-sized state school.
The meeting is still in progress down at City Hall, where community members are making their thoughts known. Broderick had to leave before he could stand as a witness, but we're told he will appear later to give John Sexton the full Ferris Bueller treatment!