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NYU to start excavation on giant Mercer Street student hub

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The first building in the university’s expansion will span a whopping 735,000 square feet

A rendering of a city block with many tall buildings. Illustrations by studioAMD

Despite the protests of its neighbors, NYU’s Greenwich Village expansion is finally kicking off in earnest. DNAInfo reports that the university is getting ready to begin excavations at 181 Mercer Street, as evidenced by the two drill rigs that have just been delivered at the site of the future student hub.

Assuming all goes according to plan, construction on the 735,000-square-food building should be completed by 2021. The excavation phase is expected to last through September.

Village residents, it goes without saying, are not happy about the incoming monolith, which will, upon completion, house 60 classrooms, several performing arts facilities, four basketball courts, a six lane lap pool, a running track, and 420 NYU freshman. (A small comfort: as NYU has regularly pointed out, the building is not nearly as big as it could be, according to zoning laws.)

To (attempt to) soothe neighborhood concerns, university officials have been giving the community regular updates. Last week, Heather Banoub, assistant director of communications at NYU, assured constituents at the Community Board 2 Arts and Institutions committee meeting that the excavation "will sound and feel very much like what above-grade demolition feels [and sounds] like,” according to DNAInfo.

NYU Assistant Director Renee Burillo, meanwhile, tried to assuage concerns about light pollution caused by the building’s glass facade and floor to ceiling windows. “There never will be a light shone outwards,” she said. “We very much do not want to be a source for light pollution.”

Still, locals have concerns: DNAInfo says neighbors “questioned whether the building is in the migratory path of birds (no one knows), and took issue with the building's design.”

"You have a history of putting these humongous atriums that to me waste so much space,” said local resident Judith Callet. “What are you giving back to the community for this monstrosity?" The answer, for now, is access to a public lobby atrium on Bleecker Street, a dedicated room for local community usage (occupant TBA), and new streetscapes.

The official ground-breaking on the project, designed by architecture firms Davis Brody Bond and Kieran Timberlake, will be sometime this spring.