W.S.V. Tenants Appeal Suit Against N.Y.U. as Faculty Mulls Expansion

NYU Core Aerial Rendering July 24N.Y.U.

Faculty members discussed New York University’s plan to expand in Greenwich Village at a town hall organized by the N.Y.U. Space Priorities Working Group today. The first of three subcommittee meetings came a day after residents of Washington Square Village appealed the dismissal of their lawsuit against the university.

The city has already approved development within two superblocks, but the Working Group is seeking to “undertake a deeper comprehensive review of the academic and non-academic space needs for the community,” said Allyson Green, a faculty member of the group.

Faculty members voiced a wide range of concerns.

Jeff Goodwin, a professor of sociology, cited crushing alumni debt, increasing student tuition and stagnant faculty salaries. “I don’t really understand how you can make rational recommendations without taking into consideration all these other factors,” he said. “Why use this money for expansion? We’ve got thousands of recent grads up to their eyeballs in debt.”

Jan Blustein, a professor of health policy and medicine, was similarly concerned with the financial costs of beginning a large construction project in tenuous economic circumstances. Since the conception of N.Y.U. 2031, which Ms. Blustein called a “gleam in John Sexton’s eye,” the economic climate in the country has worsened and New York City has had to deal with the financial ramifications of two natural disasters. Then there is the issue of what Ms. Blustein called “rising uncertainty of the fate of higher education.”

“We are facing an enormous new risk,” she said before asking the subcommittee: “How the heck are we going to deal with it if it becomes a hole in the ground?”

Jalal Shatah, a faculty member of the Working Group, disagreed with Ms. Blustein’s characterization of N.Y.U. 2031. “I don’t view the plan as Sexton’s plan. It’s the plan of the university. And maybe people have confidence or don’t have confidence but we do need space,” he said.

The Working Group, for its part, will use the concerns raised at the meeting today to formulate its own recommendations, which will be submitted in a report to President Sexton and the N.Y.U community in May. Until then, members of the community seem keenly aware of the fact that the Working Group has a tough job ahead of them.

“You’re gonna catch hell,” said Mr. Goodwin. “And that’s going to be part of your job.”

The meeting came during a somewhat tumultuous time: yesterday, as expected, rent-stabilized residents of Washington Square Village appealed the dismissal of a case in which they argued that N.Y.U.’s expansion would illegally deprive them of a private park, Washington Square News reported.

And earlier this month, the N.Y.U. Faculty of Arts and Science held a vote in which 53 percent of the 422 respondents said they had no confidence in John Sexton’s leadership. While the vote of no confidence was not attached to a specific issue, it is widely believed that it came in response to the N.Y.U. 2031 expansion plan, over which many faculty members have voiced their unhappiness in what has become an ongoing saga.

The Finance Subcommittee will host a second town hall meeting tomorrow from 12 p.m. until 2 p.m. in Kimmel Center room 914. The Quality of Life Subcommittee will meet on April 10th from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m., also in Kimmel room 914.