Testimony of the Regional Plan Association
New York University
Before the New York City Planning Commission
For the Public Hearing on The New York University Core Project
My name is Bob Yaro and I’m president of Regional Plan Association, a private, nonprofit group that promotes the economic vitality and livability of New York City and the greater New York metropolitan region.
RPA wants to express its support for the recently modified NYU Core project given this institution’s importance to the economy and life of the city and region. RPA believes that NYU and a handful of other research universities and teaching hospitals are part of New York's economic bedrock. They attract talented faculty, students and alumni to the City and also contribute to the City's cultural and intellectual vitality. They create and spin off technology, the arts, literature and other intellectual content that help build the city's creative and advanced technology industries. And they directly employ tens of thousands of employees putting billions of dollars directly into the city's payrolls.
We understand that construction and other impacts of this project will directly affect residents of the superblocks and the surrounding neighborhood, and for this reason many of them are opposed to NYU's expansion plans. We also believe, however, that the project will have enormous long-term benefits for the whole City and Region that far outweigh its local impacts. As stated in the DEIS, NYU is one of the 10 largest employers in the city and its Washington Square campus accounts for more than 24,000 jobs and $2.25 billion in economic output to the city.
The recent agreement negotiated by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer with the University represents a reasonable path forward that addresses both university and community needs. Those commitments and mitigations to the project include a significant reduction in overall density, designation and preservation of public-strips as parkland, elimination of a temporary gymnasium on the site of two community playgrounds, elimination of proposed dormitories on the Bleecker Building, and an affirmation of NYU’s commitment to provide space for a K-8 school.
The future of New York relies on the need to balance and house our key economic activities such as NYU within an urban environment in which there are spatial and other constraints for development. We need to work together to ensure that we are able to continue to make New York a vibrant and attractive place for all.
This project will ensure that NYU is able to keep its forecasted growth at its current location - where it makes sense for the institution to expand. The proposed project allows the University to increase its existing facilities by building on its historic presence in the area without taking new land for development. This plan achieves this balance by not encroaching on the integrity and fabric of the surrounding historic communities.
RPA believes that building through infill in the existing superblocks where NYU is already located makes sense and will reduce pressure on its piecemeal and scattered development around the Village. By concentrating development in these parcels the project balances the need to accommodate NYU’s growth and preserves the neighborhood.
The site plan for the NYU Core project will also reconnect the neighborhood's large superblocks together by creating north-south pedestrian walkways from Houston Street to Washington Square Park and enliven the area with new retail and contextual architecture that would complement the built environment diversity of these blocks and the surrounding community.
Robert D. Yaro, President
Regional Plan Association