Dear Chair Burden:
The New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects is pleased to offer comments on the New York University Core Project applications referenced above which include an amendment to the City Map, an amendment of the Zoning Map, an amendment of the Zoning Resolution of the City of New York, concerning special permit regulations for large scale general developments, Special Provisions for bulk modifications and for the grant of a special permit. The Chapter has its offices and exhibition space, the Center for Architecture, at 536 LaGuardia Place, immediately across from the Proposed Development Area and more specifically Washington Square Village. We have been neighbors of NYU since 2003.
We recognize New York University's need to expand to accommodate additional students, faculty and academic facilities to continue to provide a world class education to thousands of students. This growth must happen in order for NYU to remain competitive with other institutions. Since the proposal involves adding considerable program area to the neighborhood, it is critical to design the individual buildings so that they have both their own identities and are carefully knit into the existing urban fabric to accomplish this goal.
The proposals for the 'LaGuardia Building' and the 'Mercer Building' are a positive addition because their placement will open up the ground plane to the community potentially allowing greater access. This will invite a greater number of people to the courtyard area. The inclusion of new amenities, including the Washington Square Village play garden, public lawn, tricycle garden and the LaGuardia Play Garden will potentially add to the enjoyment of the space for many in the community. It is also positive that the large bulk of these buildings will be located below-grade to limit the height and bulk of the buildings above-grade. These two buildings can be viewed as a spatial counterpoint to the distinctive slab buildings that make up Washington Square Village. We are heartened that community access to the open space has been assured in the recent negotiations and that the planted strips along the east side of LaGuardia Place will remain in use as park space. Discussions of bulk and massing are moving in the right direction, consistent with our prior statement that the bulk and the height of the 'Mercer Building' both require further study.
The addition of street wall retail at the 'Zipper Building' will activate and enliven Mercer Street to enhance the experience of the public. For far too long this area has been isolated and disconnected from the surrounding community creating a street void of pedestrians. We are still concerned about the bulk and massing of the three largest towers on the northernmost part of the 'Zipper Building' but are pleased that New York University has shown flexibility and openness in discussions with neighbors in the South Village. Community comments have helped shape the plan, important to both New York University and the future of the City.
In closing, we thank the City Planning Commission for the opportunity to provide comments on the applications for this important project.
Joseph J. Aliotta, AIA 2012 Chapter President
Rick Bell, FAIA Executive Director