BY TEQUILA MINSKY and LINCOLN ANDERSON | Under the eyes of the Fiorello LaGuardia statue — which had “STOMP”-style garbage can-lid cymbals added to its clapping hands for the occasion — opponents of the N.Y.U. South Village expansion plan rallied on Wednesday. The community’s fight against the development scheme was poised to enter round two, at the Appellate Division, shortly afterward.
Speakers included Mark Crispin Miller, of N.Y.U. Faculty Against the Sexton Plan; attorney Jim Walden, the opponents’ attorney; former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern; Public Advocate Letitia James; Assemblymember Deborah Glick; state Senators Brad Hoylman and Daniel Squadron; Congressmember Jerrold Nadler; Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, and Broadway actress Kathleen Chalfant.
More than one speaker indicated that Bill de Blasio — who is an N.Y.U. alumnus — should be there with them.
“The mayor should not be on the wrong side of history,” James declared.
“Drop the appeal!” the crowd chanted.
N.Y.U., the city and the community opponents have all appealed Judge Donna Mills’s Jan. 7 decision, in which she ruled that three of the “strips” of open space along the eastern and western edges of N.Y.U.’s two South Village superblocks — Mercer Playground, LaGuardia Corner Gardens and LaGuardia Park — are, in fact, parks, and thus can’t be used for the massive, planned four-building construction project unless they are first “alienated” from park use by the state Legislature.
However, the community coalition argues that the Mercer-Houston Dog Run — which N.Y.U. says it needs to create its new “Zipper Building” on the current Coles gym site — is also parkland.
Stern previously submitted an affidavit for the court case, detailing how, he said, N.Y.U. repeatedly undermined the open-space strips’ ownership from being officially transferred from the Department of Transportation to the Parks Department.
Members of the East Village show “STOMP” joined the crowd and performed following the speeches.
University spokesperson John Beckman issued a statement slamming the community rally.
“Protests like this make for a good photo-op, but N.Y.U. will remain focused on the court case,” he said. “As we did in the lower court — which ruled that we should be allowed to proceed with the initial and largest phase of the 2031 core plan [the Zipper Building] — we will make the case to the Appellate Division that on the one outstanding issue — the lower court’s holding that some of the D.O.T. strips should be treated as parkland — the court was in error.
“The need to create additional academic space is clear, and has only become more evident,” Beckman’s statement continued. “Since the lower court’s ruling, a faculty-led committee has affirmed the pressing need for additional academic space at N.Y.U. We intend to move forward in developing the space needed to ensure that N.Y.U. maintains its academic excellence and standards.”
At Wednesday’s Appellate hearing, each side had 15 minutes to give oral testimony before a panel of judges, who then could ask questions. In such appeals, a decision can come at anytime afterward, but not on the day of the hearing.