Skip to main content

The NYU expansion plan provokes debate, as well as support for expansion in Downtown Brooklyn; NYU urged to set up a community advisory committee

There's another big land use plan/dispute out there: the expansion of New York University, with the main controversy regarding its plans for Greenwich Village, where 2.5 million square feet (of 6 million total in the city) are projected by 2031.

The Leonard Lopate Show yesterday featured a mostly critical (with no NYU rep) assessment of the plan. New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman on March 25 gave it a thumbs up-and-down treatment.

Here are some critical views from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (which thinks NYU should build a satellite campus elsewhere in the city), Mark Crispin Miller, and NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, and coverage in Capital New York.

The MAS angle

On the Lopate Show, two critics, NYU faculty member Miller and Community Board 2 Chairman Brad Hoylman were joined by Municipal Art Society President Vin Cipolla, whose organization takes a mixed view on the expansion.

(MAS is sponsoring a panel discussion tonight on the expansion plan, from 6-7:30 pm at Scholastic Auditorium, 557 Broadway at Prince Street. Miller will be at McNally Jackson Books tomorrow.)

Lopate twice mentioned the MAS's criticisms of the Atlantic Yards plan, as if not recognizing that the organization is no longer in the fray, as I commented.

But there is a lesson for the area, as Prospect Heights activist Danae Oratowski commented:
Residents of Greenwich Village who are concerned about the impact of years of construction on their quality of life need only look at the experience of Brooklynites who live around the Atlantic Yards project. Dust, noise late into the night, and compromised air quality are regularly documented by the community on www.atlanticyardswatch.org a website started by residents.

Last year, community groups sued the State of New York and Forest City Ratner, arguing that the extension of the build-out from ten years to twenty five was never studied in an EIS. The plaintiff won their case last summer; the defendants have appealed and decision is expected this spring.
MAS testimony: Neighborhood Context
Principle: NYU must plan for growth in order to meet the challenges of a 21st century university, however new buildings should be designed in such a way as to be compatible with the existing built form, respecting the limitations of the neighborhood, its infrastructure and the existing community.
...MAS suggests that NYU reduce the proposed density by focusing more development outside of the core, in places where greater density would be desirable such as Downtown Brooklyn. The building stock in Downtown Brooklyn is far more compatible with what NYU is proposing to develop in Greenwich Village and is an area where the thoughtful integration of new academic buildings could dramatically improve the streetscape and increase the energy and vitality of that neighborhood.
NYU’s Polytechnic campus is currently located in Downtown Brooklyn and the University is in negotiation for the former NYC Transit Headquarters located at 370 Jay Street
How, per chance, did NYU get its Downtown Brooklyn campus? Through a merger/absorption of Polytechnic University in MetroTech that received little attention.

MAS testimony: Public Space
Principle: NYU should support and encourage community engagement and investment in public open spaces and seek to improve circulation through the superblocks as much as is feasible.
MAS believes that as a general rule, the City should only de-map portions of the public streets that improve circulation or provide an important community benefit.
Principle: Spaces should be designed in such a way as to welcome all members of the public, whether or not they are affiliated with the university.
...This interior space, controlled by NYU, will be open to the public, however “publicly-accessible” but privately owned open space often fails to be a meaningful public amenity due to physical barriers, inadequate programming and restricted hours of operation. 
MAS testimony: Public Process
Principle: NYU should fully disclose and explain their commitment to providing community amenities.
The City’s zoning regulations were designed to help regulate density in order to properly plan for community facilities such as public schools, so that the city’s infrastructure does not become overwhelmed by added density. In recent years deals have been struck to compensate for added density. The provision of schools is used as a trade-off or is mitigation for greater density. MAS believes that going forward schools should not be a part of a developer’s deal with the City; rather school sites should be carefully selected and located where there is the greatest need for such facilities.
The AY parallel

MAS suggests:
NYU should set-up a community advisory committee to serve as information channel for progress on the project and any significant changes that occur throughout the 20-year buildout.
NYU is a private university, but it needs a rezoning. Forest City Ratner not only got an override of zoning, it got significant subsidies and tax breaks. There's no community advisory committee in Brooklyn. And there's surely not, as MAS once suggested, a new governance entity.

MAS Position Statement on NYU 2031_2 28 12

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…