Letters, week of February 22 – 28, 2012

‘Angry NIMBYs’?  What nerve!

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. has a right to build, but must scale back plan” (editorial, Feb. 15):

“Angry NIMBYs who want to protect their cherished and privileged corner of the world”?

Really? We’ve been inundated with bars, banks, tour buses and drunken bad behavior for many years. And a number of residents here are longtime neighborhood people, whose families have lived in Greenwich Village for decades; people who were displaced by N.Y.U.’s construction of faculty housing on Bleecker St.  — on land practically “given” to N.Y.U. for a song.
Paul Rackow

N.Y.U. risks rotting the core

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. has a right to build, but must scale back plan” (editorial, Feb. 15):

Yes, N.Y.U. has a right to build. And we have existing zoning laws to cover what it may build on land it does own. But the university seeks to control land it does not own as well, land that belongs to the public. It also wants to change the zoning designation of the superblocks, the city zoning law text, and even to get additional waivers beyond that. Changes that may well set a precedent for the rest of the city — so be careful what you ask for.

“Half?” Why are you expecting N.Y.U. to have a change of heart, when for more than a year as it developed this plan, it refused to yield to the community by even a fraction. When it gave up on the “pinwheel” hotel, it was only because of the embarrassment to N.Y.U. by I.M. Pei’s public rejection of the proposal — not because of any compromise with the community.

The superblocks’ existing zoning is a restriction on development agreed to first in the 1950s and again in the ’70s. Why would a deed restriction on land transferred to the city for a public school now in 2012 have any more meaning than the existing deed restriction on the superblocks created in past agreements? What happened to “A deal’s a deal”? Should past agreements be thrown out each time N.Y.U. wants more?

The wide support for the plan at the city level offers an opportunity to spread N.Y.U.’s growth throughout the city more widely. Opposition to this plan does not reduce the possibilities for job growth. On the contrary, it has the potential to spread jobs throughout the city. And the university’s strength would not be diminished by such a spread; rather, it would enhance it. Consider the fact that N.Y.U. thrives now and is in several locations around this and other cities. Perhaps that’s precisely why it is thriving.

N.Y.U.’s need to expand should not be fulfilled in its core. Expansion there will only serve to rot the core.
Jeffrey Rowland

Playing into N.Y.U.’s hands

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. has a right to build, but must scale back plan” (editorial, Feb. 15):

Many observations in your thoughtful editorial deserve further discussion. However, one critical point has been lost in the shuffle, and a misleading characterization must be corrected. I’ll put down my pitchfork and torch momentarily in this effort.

You describe maximalists responding unconditionally in the negative, and a need for compromise and negotiating tools from C.B. 2. It is astounding that a significant issue has been either ignored or forgotten: Borough President Stringer assembled a Community Task Force on N.Y.U. Development. This was an unprecedented attempt to deal with a community’s realistic concerns and have a straightforward dialogue to deal with conflicting needs. After four years and more than 50 meetings with N.Y.U., we produced a comprehensive, balanced report on March 25, 2010. Needless to say, we asked for a similarly thoughtful response. We waited. The deafening silence reverberates to this day.

Ultimately, to suggest that there has been an all-or-nothing stance on the part of this community is simply a distortion of reality. N.Y.U. representatives have sat down with us, attended many meetings, and remained impassive. In its continued attempts to ignore and marginalize us, N.Y.U. has utterly precluded any dialogue, let alone compromise.

To stereotype the opposition to N.Y.U.’s overreaching plan as absolutist NIMBYs protecting their “privileged corner of the world” (interesting choice of words; is this relevant?) is a heavy-handed oversimplification and erroneous. Of course, in any charged situation there will be extremists. I have attended dozens of community meetings on this topic. Despite the threat to what is perceived as the very quality of life and remaining identity of  Greenwich Village, for the most part, residents have been reasonable and articulate and have offered well-considered feedback.

N.Y.U. would enjoy fostering this easy assumption and portrayal, thereby contrasting the irrational mobs with its prudence and beneficence. It’s a predictable tactic. Don’t fall for it.
Beth Gottlieb
Gottlieb is president, Mercer-Houston Dog Run Association and former member, Borough President’s Community Task Force on N.Y.U. Development