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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gorillas and Cookies

NYU is seen by many Greenwich Village residents as the neighborhood 800-pound gorilla. Every real estate move it makes is highly contentious and seen by opponents as the act of an avaricious behemoth whose appetite for properties is never sated. Perhaps a new variant of an old joke might be: "What real estate does an 800-pound gorilla buy?" "Whatever it wants."

New York University is located in Manhattan and fully integrated into the fabric of the city. Unlike a rural University with land, in order to expand, NYU acquires many real estate properties and demolishes them. To purchase prime properties which are located in the heart of its campus, NYU must compete and throw its weight around.

When renovating properties it already owns, it still runs it problems. Some of NYU's properties lie within the Greenwich Village Historic District, so it has regulations to conform to. Others not protected by the landmark district, still lie in a neighborhood very sensitive to architectural change and rife with community activists and preservationists.

In 2001, NYU demolished the brick house where Edgar Allen Poe last lived in 1844-45 for expansion of the law school. This was met with huge community opposition and efforts to preserve the home were derailed. Read about it here.

The building in the photo is of 22 Washington Square North, previous home of the NYU admissions office, where 37,026 applications in 2008 were processed, the largest number of any private university in the United States. The place is being entirely gutted and will be used by the NYU law school as a research facility. I was amazed at the extent of work - the entire interior has been completed removed - only the shell remained - note the sky which can be seen from the front entrance. The property (along with #19) are part of one of the finest rows of Greek Revival townhouses in the United States and located on Washington Square Park, one of the most desirable locations in New York City. The location is also important, because the park is NYU's de facto campus.

Recently, NYU has plans to demolish the four buildings and theater which housed the Provincetown Playhouse at 133-139 MacDougal Street. The redevelopment of the playhouse will be the first time planning is done with support of the Community Task Force on NYU Development. Hopes are that this new approach will bring harmony between NYU and Village neighbors. Perhaps NYU can upgrade its image from the 800-pound Gorilla to that of Sesame Street's Cookie Monster:)


Thérèse said...

Such a good picture to depict this kind of subject!
And sometimes properties are bought, demolished and nothing happens... which is the case over here with a few spots.
It's terrible.

ChickenUnderwear said...

"Perhaps NYU can upgrade its image from the 800-pound Gorilla to that of Sesame Street's Cookie Monster:)"

I love that analogy.