Benjamin Hemric left an interesting comment about my remark about NYU’s expansion plans in Greenwich Village. First of all, I should admit that I was lazy and got NYU’s plans totally wrong – they are going to add towers to the three that I. M. Pei already built, not tear them down, and they’re going to be in a similar style.
But more importantly, Hemric sees NYU’s towers-in-the-park plan as anti-density fallout (emphasis mine):
[…] I’d like to say that I support more intense development of the NYU sites, but disagree with NYU’s current plans, which put the planned added density in an anti-city, tower-in-the-park form. It appears to me that NYU has developed this tower-in-the park approach, in large part so it seems to me, because it believes it will eventually help win over community opponents and government officials. So, in other words, this bad plan seems to me to be a result, to a large extent, of NYU trying to cater to anti-development community activists (although these activists are still up in arms about it) and government officials. I think a more market-oriented approach (one where a municipality takes care of its basic duties and needs and where private developers take care of their own needs), similar to what existed in cities prior to the urban “renewal” era, would likely produce a much better, more urbane plan. So I think that, to a large extent, it is the visible hand of “planning” that is mis-guiding this project and that more reliance on an invisible hand of the marketplace approach, where developers try to maximize their benefits and where municipalities focus only on limited “legitimate” (in my opinion) duties, like providing streets and parks, protecting landmarks, etc., would produce a much better result (here and elsewhere). […]
Under its current plans, NYU hopes to add density to these superblock developments by building another, Pei-like, tower (a university-owed residence and hotel for visiting scholars, etc.) to the University Village development (which is also known as “Silver Towers”), and to add two academic towers, that would be built a top an underground “base” of classrooms, to the Washington Square Village development. These additional structures are anti-city, though, and do nothing to create a better streetscape in the Village. Plus, although they add density, because of their small footprints, they do not add the kind of commercial space that would enable the area to properly absorb and catalyze the added density. Furthermore, all three towers cut off what remains of the two public streets that still go through the site. So the plan not only doesn’t solve the problem of the anti-city superblocks, it actually makes the problem worse!!! (They also want to tear down their low-rise gym and replace it with medium high-rise classrooms and dorms. Although it could be done better, basically this isn’t a bad idea.)
It seems to me that most community activists are opposed to NYU’s expansion (on its own underdeveloped land, I should add) because they are, basically, anti-density and anti-development and not, I reiterate, because NYU supposedly desires to tear down Silver Towers. (NYU actually supported having them designated government protected landmarks.)
Thanks for the comment and correction, Benjamin, and thanks to everyone else who takes the time to comment – we seem to get a lot of comments of very high quality compared to other blogs with much higher readerships. Perhaps it has something to do with Eli Dourado’s Law of Blog Comments?