The battle to save Greenwich Village from being swallowed by the ravenous NYU beast suffered a foreboding setback today, as the City Council's Land Use Committee voted 19-1 and the Zoning subcommittee voted unanimously to approve a modified version of the university's massive 2031 expansion plan. Changes to the expansion—which were made at Coucilmember Margaret Chin's request after the plan was unanimously rejected by Community Board 2 in January—include a 700,000 reduction in square footage at the Zipper Building on Mercer and Bleecker Streets as well as significant reductions to the Boomerang buildings at Mercer and LaGuardia streets. (One building will go from eleven stories to four stories.) NYU will also add community spaces such as a pedestrian walkway on Greene Street, as well as a public atrium.

NYU's Senior Vice President Lynne Brown and Vice President Alicia Hurley, who represented the university administration at the hearing, also promised that the university would be responsible for both the cost of construction and the cost of maintenance at all the public spaces.

Though Councilwoman Chin did note that the modified plan meant that "no one got everything they wanted," she heralded the so-called compromise, telling committee members and the administration representatives that she'd originally called for reductions in order to strike a balance between density and open space in the neighborhood. "I'm confident the proposal you just heard strikes this balance," Chin said. "It will allow NYU's growth to occur at a sustainable pace, and it will not overwhelm the surrounding community."

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Rebecca Fishbein / Gothamist

Prior to the hearing, NYU faculty members and neighborhood activists who opposed the expansion plan held a press conference on the steps of City Hall, offering their own "Green Alternative" to 2031 and urged City Councilmembers to vote against the expansion, citing irreconcilable damage to the environment, the student body and the neighborhood should the expansion go forth as planned. Their alternative calls on the NYU administration to limit construction to the core if there's no explicit academic need for it; repurpose empty, retail or administrative space for classrooms; preserve existing green space and public park strips; and require students and faculty to use sustainable local transport like bicycles and subways.

"It's a shame that the faculty and the community were never consulted about NYU's expansion plans or asked to participate," Mark Crispin Miller, a Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU and a member of NYUFASP, said at the press conference. "We're calling on Councilmember Chin, Councilmember Quinn and the entire Council to send the NYU administration back to the drawing board to re-do its plan based on these low-impact, low-cost, green principles."

Patrick Deer, an Associate Professor of English at the university and a co-creator of the Green Alternative, noted that much of the academic space the administration claims NYU needs could be gained by repurposing unused property the university already owns, such as as the old Tower Books building on Lafayette Street. "It's this great big building. What's it being used for? I.D. cards," Deer said. "It's a massive building, you walk in and it's just some administrator sitting behind the counter. It's like the DMV. They take your picture. Half the time it's empty because, you know, [the IDs] last for four years."

And area residents who would be directly affected by the expansion voiced concern that more modern dorms and buildings would ruin what was left of the neighborhood. "The reason the Village is what it is is because we kept it low rise. That's why it's the Village, and not Downtown or Midtown," Judith Bendewald, a longtime Village resident and local public school teacher, said. "We're fighting constantly to preserve the last little bit of history, the last bit of neighborly-ness you have when you have low-rises." She added, "It's [the administration's] attitude. They have a very arrogant attitude…I don't understand the greed for power, for position. They're just like emperors who wanted another country."

Though both the Council's Land Use Committee and Zoning subcommittee approved NYU's plan, they were not without reservations. Council members questioned the university's dedication to funding and maintaining the public spaces they promised to the community, and voiced concern that the university would not use local labor for construction projects and in the retail and commercial spaces. And the one dissenting voice, Council Member Charles Barron of the Land Use Committee, urged the council members to "have the courage to say no," to the expansion plan, arguing, "These are neighborhoods. These are not university towns."

The final City Council vote will be held in front of the full Council on July 25th, giving the rest of us New Yorkers a little more time to accept that soon enough, we might all be reduced to a life trapped in the belly of the Big Bobcat.