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City Council approves massive NYU expansion, residents vow to sue

Above is the NYU gym and dog run

Above is the NYU gym and dog run on Mercer Street where a new "Zipper Building" will go. The university said it was reducing the proposed size of this building by 70,000 square feet yesterday, a cut of 6.7%. (Charles Eckert) Credit: The NYU gym and dog run on Mercer Street where a new "Zipper Building" will go (Charles Eckert)

The City Council overwhelmingly approved a 20-year expansion plan for NYU in Greenwich Village Wednesday, despite opposition of community members who say the addition of four large buildings would irreparably harm the neighborhood.

By a 44-1 vote the council passed the proposal, which will let NYU add nearly two million square feet of academic and housing space. Council Member Charles Barron was the lone dissenting vote.

NYU's plan was modified version ofn to its original blueprint, which called for 26% more space and was slammed by various city officials before being scaled back. Council Member Margaret Chin brokered a deal with the university last week to slim down and shorten its new buildings and create more public space. NYU is also offering one of the new buildings to the city for a public school.

Dozens of residents were tossed out of City Hall by Council Speaker Christine Quinn moments before the vote after there were several outbursts in the chamber's balcony. The protesters booed, hissed and chanted, "Chin and Quinn did us in" as they were booted from the room.

Chin said she thought the compromise "strikes an appropriate balance."

"These modifications directly address the concerns expressed by my constituents and ensure NYU's growth will occur at a sustainable pace," Chin said after the crowd was removed. "I am confident that it will not overwhelm the wider Greenwich Village community."

But Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which had asked the university to find space in other areas of the city for its "2031" expansion instead of building near Washington Square Park, said the new buildings "will turn a residential neighborhood into a company town and subject it to 20 straight years of construction." He said his group was planning a lawsuit to stop the construction.

"The impact that this will have and the outrageous means by which this decision was arrived at requires a legal response," Berman said.

NYU President John Sexton said the expansion is good for the university and for residents who live nearby.

"This plan benefits not only NYU's students and faculty -- in very real and tangible ways, it benefits New York City," Sexton said in a statement.

Marianne Edwards, a Village resident for 35 years, wasn't convinced.

"This process was such a sham. No one paid any attention to what the community said," said Edwards, who lives across the street from NYU's gym.

"We won't be able to go outside. We won't be able to open our windows," she added. "We'll be living in a prison."

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