It's trite to call NYU's 2031 expansion plans "ambitious" at this point, given that the school wants to add 3 million square feet in the Village alone. The school is feeling the full opposition of Village locals and the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation says that the plan is “a little like BP saying they show respect for the environment.” We don't know if that's completely apt, but in a New York Magazine feature, there is a NYU President John Sexton/Robert Moses parallel to mull over. The center of this controversy lies at the proposed 400 foot tower on Bleecker Street, which would be lodged alongside the I.M Pei designed Silver Towers.

Preservationists and opponents are imploring NYU to build in the Financial District, where the building would be more contextual and won't sully the Silver Towers. Sexton says “If students have to walk between classes, you can’t have those outside of a zone. Certain activities like the gym and so on have to be nearby, otherwise students can’t get to them to use. Freshman dorms, it’s much more important they be in close, simply because freshmen are typically coming from all over the world or the country and it’s their first time in New York, and you need them in a protected environment" to which an opponent eloquently retorts "We’re talking about two fucking subway stops away. You can’t do that?

This isn't the first time NYU has provoked the ire of preservationists. Back in 1964, architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable said the school has a “consistent blindness to the area’s architectural and historical features.” Some things never change, with Huxtable's intellectual descendants espousing the same rallying cry in opposition to a monolith which they believe to be inherently disastrous to the fabric of the neighborhood. In their defense, NYU is saying that they building on land that they already own and a proponent says “In a way, the dirty job was done by Robert Moses. It’s a scar. It makes a lot of sense to frame the site where large buildings already exist. It does the least amount of damage to the existing context.”

So is John Sexton really the new Robert Moses? We wouldn't go that far, but there certainly are more than a handful of activists waving the banner of perfervid preservationism who would disagree. One of them would be David Gruber, the chair of Community Board 2's arts-and-institutions committee, who says “This is kind of a Jane Jacobs versus Robert Moses fight of the gods