NYU tonight opened its expansion plan with three parcels of feel-good massage: 25th Street & 1st Avenue next to Bellevue hospital, well away from the East Village; the MetroTech center in downtown Brooklyn, an area so empty of community that no one would even notice a new skyscraper there if it fell over on it; and Governor's Island, the sole impact of which on Manhattan is a ferry landing next to another ferry landing and a helicopter landing. And throughout their presentation, no plans for the East Village at all. Sounds good?
BUT if you look just a little more closely, you see that the the presentation is fantasy designed more for propaganda than genuine plan. The site south of Bellevue is already occupied and owned by Hunter College. Although Hunter announced a bid for the land two years ago, it hasn't followed up for a variety of reasons which will not likely change for quite a while, if ever. NYU, if prodded, admits that these 1mil. sq.ft. are mere speculation on a wish of a shadow of a building complex they can't control at all. (They're actually planning a Nursing School building across the street, but it's quite small in the scheme of things: 140,000sf).
The Governors Island plan requires a huge commitment that they are not yet prepared for, and also requires other entities to make that isolated island palatable to any but the most reclusive academics hermits. Until there's something there there, there's no there there besides the nothing that isn't there, and NYU, the university of the "New York Experience" is all about being here, not there. The Mayor would like to see it happen, but governments have been wanting to see something happen there for over a decade, and the only thing that has so far happened is a recreation area that's become so popular that the public wants to keep it for themselves unchanged. NYU claims with one tongue that their buildings will be set away from the recreation area untouched, but with the other tongue admits that there will have to be attractions elsewhere on the island before anyone is willing to reside, teach and learn all on that little military campground. When everyone finally gets all excited about Governors Island, of course that's when NYU shows up and drags in its entourage as well.
The MetroTech center is the only parcel that NYU could build tomorrow with no strings. But they don't need or want all that space way off in Brooklyn (all they own there is the little PolyTechnic school) so they'd have to rent out a piece of it, and in this economy, that won't happen.
Altogether that's several million square feet of feel-good fantasy that will probably end up as real concrete and students in our neighborhood, sooner or later.
Scarier still is their silence on the East Village. Looking at the fantasies-afar, you know it's going to pop up here, but they don't give a clue as to where.
The vocal anger of East Villagers prompted the creation of this NYU Expansion Task Force and all these open house presentations. It's good to know that NYU is still so afraid of the East Village that they don't want to tell us where they are looking for East Village real estate. Unfortunately, little else is good.