"While We Were Sleeping; NYU and the Destruction of New York" is a piece of paperback protest published by writers and educators agains NYU's current expansion plans in Greenwich Village and in support of NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan. It's a quick read and easy to one-hand on the subway, where you'll get some nods of agreement or eye-rolls from fellow straphangers acknowledging the title. To say that the NYU 2031 (or Sexton) Plan has generated strong feelings in opposition would be an understatement. Within the book's covers, some of the Village's most skilled wordsmiths use their talents to rip their employer/neighbor/benefactor a new one. We've chosen nine of our favorites:
There is no evidence that NYU will ever be able to pay for its expansion, nor has the university made any effort to provide any. I think NYU is going to go bankrupt before the construction is finished, and the Village will become a Detroit-esque necropolis of abandoned buildings with tattered, neglected NYU flags flying in front.—Patrick W. Gallagher With mortgage and other credit markets still in the doldrums, universities have become a very attractive option for investors looking for high returns on debt-financed growth. Money capital has poured into construction bonds, student loans, and other financial instruments spun out of the tuition bubble. When FIRE [finance, insurance, and real estate industries] gets hooked on ICE [intellectual, cultural, and education industries], the result is a vast pool of melted water, in which the indebted are already half-drowning.—Andrew Ross As any realistic examination of NYU's financial past, present, and probable future will show, to anyone who can add, subtract, and is not delusional or blinded by short-term self-interest or flat-out stupidity, the precarious fiscal situation the university finds itself in now can be directly traced to its ill-conceived and greedy overreaching into the demolition/construction in the first place.—Kenneth Longergan The corporation cannot smell this soil.
The corporation cannot love the oaks.
The corporation cannot measure a garden plot.
The corporation is a particular organism, a termite colony that will ultimate destroy its host.
NYU is not the only corporation. But this one is ours to deal with. If we don't do this, no one will.—Peter Carey Better it would be that NYU should vanish tomorrow than it be allowed to tear down everything around it and go on multiplying in its own, remarkably unimaginative fashion. We would miss it, of course, much as Brooklyn misses the Dodgers...but if you'll notice, Brooklyn is doing pretty well these days, while the Dodgers are just another baseball team, playing somewhere off a highway in California. It is the Village that lends enchantment to the university, not the other way around. You would think that, after nearly two hundred years, the university might have figured this out. —Kevin Baker
No one would have ever dreamed that in 2012, one of the finest universities in the country and a bastion of civilized though and civic responsibility would become the Frankenstein monster of rapacious behavior, and like some grade-B horror movie, invade and demolish the very same neighborhoods where its own distinguished faculty was housed, subjecting them to the acoustical torture of round the clock demolition and construction for the next twenty years, with this insane plan to expand, which would destroy the very community which made NYU so precious. —David Amram Doesn't NYU realize that in annihilating Greenwich Village's soul—yes, soul—by the size of its planned expansion, they are killing the goose that laid the golden egg? Why do young people want to come to NYU? Because NYU is in Greenwich Village. If these plans go through, students will arrive in New York to find yet another corporate wasteland whose lobbies and dorms will be decorated with sensitive b&w photos of Eugene O'Neill, the Provincetown Playhouse where modern American theater was born, photos of de Kooning and Jackson Pollack, the Caffee Cino, and Caffe La Mama, the Stonewall riots, Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway, photos of people living their lives for the last century and a half in a defiantly human scale in the madness of New York City. —John Guare [
NYU's] latest project is to plop down four huge buildings right where the citizens don't want them & no one needs them. This massive construction will take only 20 years, they say. (The only thing that comes on time in NYC is New Year's Eve.) Imgagine all those years of murderous noise, fouled traffic, fouled air, fouled lives. Whatever green space is there will be gone. Say goodbye to the view, goodbye to the lovely gardens—there's no money in gardening—goodbye to a magnificent neighborhood, & worst of all goodbye to a way of life. We are dealing with a ruthless corporation. —Philip Levine Should the university have tried to build so much? My usual answer would be that a truly insightful and inventive architet could succeed. Unfortunaely, the university has a knack for getting the worst work out of even highly talented architects. Its intentions don't seem venal, simply inept. There's some blind spot to the possibilities of design in the leadership's DNA. —James S. Russell