A few things.
First of all, the New York Times in 1992 on the postmodern skyline blight that is the Sony Building (then still the AT&T Building):
This proposal marks the latest instance in which landlords have tried to recreate ill-conceived or little-used arcades and plazas, which generated lucrative bonuses for builders but not much in the way of genuine public amenities.
In one of the most dramatic cases, a dank arcade under 2 Lincoln Square, an apartment tower on Columbus Avenue, between 65th and 66th Streets, was enclosed in 1989 and turned into a home for the Museum of American Folk Art.
The Sony plan is likely to provoke wide debate on whether the public will gain or lose through the renovation, given the celebrity of 550 Madison Avenue itself, which was designed in 1978 by Philip Johnson and is marked on the skyline by a Chippendale-style broken pediment.
Sony’s proposal calls for a net reduction of 8,727 square feet of space at ground level that is now devoted to the public; space that could conceivably be rented to retailers for about $200 a square foot.
And now the New York Observer in 2012, on NYU’s 2031 plan, which will involve upgrading the quality and quantity of open space while adding new buildings to their modernist superblocks in the Village:
“We are making publicly accessible [existing] open space that is not—and is not perceived—as publicly accessible now,” university spokesman John Beckman told The Observer.
Still, this ignores the fact that this is already N.Y.U. owned land, and many of the impediments in place that the university cites, such as fences and locked gates and requisite visitor passes, could merely be done away with by the institution. The public space would not be the best, but it still underscores the fact that there is not nearly a net open space gain on the scale the university is suggesting.
But the Greenwich Village is, of course, sacrosanct, being the home of Jane Jacobs and one of the first neighborhoods in America to gentrify after urban decline (that is, regain its former stature – there are some places, like Lake Shore Drive in Chicago and the Upper East Side in Manhattan, that never lost it).
Speaking of Jane Jacobs, commenter Benjamin Hemric, in one of his epic comments the other day, pointed me to this footnote on page 194 of The Death and Life:
“Dear, are you sure the sotve is one of the 51 exciting reasons we’re living in Washington Square Village?” asks the wife in a cartoon issued by protesting tenants in an expensive New York redevelopment project. “You’ll have to speak up, honey,” replies the husband. “Our neighbor just flushed his toilet.”
Washington Square Village is, in my opinion, the nicer of the two complexes that NYU wants to redevelop, despite not having the pedigree of I.M. Pei’s Silver Towers next door.
And finally, from another Observer article, right after the plan passed the first of two major City Council hurdles:
[Community Board 2 chair David Gruber] said the community did not get a single major concession from NYU, among them a hope that the Mercer building on the north block would be eliminated entirely. It was something everyone from the board to council members to The Times‘ architecture critic had asked for, but NYU said it was impossible given the huge underground building it was building on the north blocks for classrooms and labs.
“In order to for it to work, we have to be able to access it, for ingress and egress,” Alicia Hurley, the NYU VP shepherding the project, told The Observer. “People have to be able to get in and out.”
Why do they need to go in and out? Surely it would be more beneficial to the community if the mole people were contained within the earth’s crust!
I’m not sure what the ratio is now that the aboveground space has been reduced, but the plan was originally 1.4 million new square feet above ground, and 1.1 million below. Light and air are so important to existing residents that newcomers have to spend their daylight hours underground.