Innovative or Simply Postmodern? Gentrification of NYU and Greenwich

        Gentrification is the process of renovating urban neighborhoods that have become worse along the years in order to make room wealthy residents. This is a common and controversial topic in politics and in urban planning. Gentrification can improve the quality of a neighborhood, while also forcing current residents, businesses and residents to relocate because that they cannot afford the increasing rent..  Gentrification creates a shift in racial framework and average household income by developing new, more expensive housing, businesses and improved resources. Many conversations about gentrification have been on the rise while those in the community questioned the negative attributes associated with this gentrification. One example of the matter is the issue of NYU’s expansion into the neighborhood Greenwich Village. The continuous gentrifications of Greenwich Village allowed for the displacement of people and has also overridden the unique culture and charm of Greenwich Village.

       The neighborhood of Greenwich is bordered by Broadway to the east, Houston Street to the south and 14th Street to the north and roughly centered on Washington Square Park and New York University. To the east of Greenwich stands the East Village and NoHo, making SoHo onto the south and Chelsea in the north. Greenwich Village historically was known as an important landmark on the map of American bohemian culture (the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people).This neighborhood was known for its colorful surroundings created by artistic residents. Since the end of the twentieth century. Many artists and local historians mourn the fact that the bohemian days of Greenwich Village are over and left to other New York neighborhoods due to the raising prices of rent. Due to the many historical attributes inside of Greenwich Village, local residents as well as preservation groups were becoming concerned about the development of this Village. These concerns have turned into these residents fighting to preserve Greenwich’s architectural and historical connotations.

         In order to understand this long tug-of-war between university and the neighborhood, we must go back and look at the history.In 1835, the first buildings that were ever a part of NYU were on the East Side of Washington Square Park. Of course, over the last thirty years, NYU has continued going back to Greenwich Village to continue the expansion of their campus into a global institution. In the past few decades, the developments made by NYU sparked some significant neighborhood opposition such as an lawsuit from councilman Ed Koch and activist Jane Jacobs. due to their construction of the Bobst Library,  Most recently, other NYU projects have drawn the anger of the neighborhood such as a 13-story law building that required that resulted the destruction of two historic houses, one being the former home of Allen Poe and replaced with a 26-story dorm on East 12th Street – the tallest building in the East Village. Currently, NYU is in development of a project called NYU 2031, which depicts the plan to rezone the super blocks and change their deed restrictions to add four more buildings over the next 17 years.

        This plan was not going so well within this low-rising neighborhood. Protest groups pledging the statement, “Save Washington Square” were going around, warning that New York University was on the verge of completely taking over the entire park. They framed the conflict as a battle of territory. “What we want to know is when NYU is going to put a stop to its expansion along Washington Square”, a leader of a local group told the New York Times. “It has been known for years as a residential section, and we’re going to see that it stays that way”. It was in 1948 where the school’s chancellor had admitted that he hoped the school would eventually surround the square, taking the park for its campus. Over 300 people gathered at Washington Square Park in September of 2015, were simply asking to control the widespread expansion of the campus. Support has even poured in from local labor unions and elected officials who felt that NYU’s plan would only add on to student debt and blame the City’s administration for allowing it to continue. Susan Goren, 61, who has lived in Greenwich Village for 50 years states, “NYU is the evil empire.Many people, tallied in the thousands, used to  go to Washington Square to simply enjoy their lives as a rightful local resident. Now, the biggest event to be known in the park is NYU’s personalized orientation day. Due to this, the zoning has not destroyed the park and made it only for the student. It is not Washington Square Park anymore, it is NYU-ville.

        As part of the NYU 2031 project, NYU has been granted the right to proceed with its long-awaited expansion by New York State’s highest court of appeals.  The Court of Appeal declared that the university wants to build “parkland”, and therefore gain the green light to move forward with development. The anti-NYU crew counterclaimed stating that the area was “implied parkland”. However, the court stated that it was not established as a permanent park but instead was temporarily loaned, for several years in fact, to the Park Department. The University now has the legal right to begin construction of additional buildings.

        Although the complexities of new developments are often forgotten, not every situation is black and white. The continuous gentrification caused by New York University has had the advantage of displacing local residents and overridden Greenwich Village’s person culture and unique charm.At the same time, gentrification stimulates the economy and lower crime. NYU has created a fine line between being an integral part of city and taking it over, and so the university must remember that going forward. If not, the university is completely ignoring its commitment to providing a quality global education while remaining dedicated to diversity and equality.

This map shows the location of the NYU facilities in Greenwich Village.