While NYU administators were in the Kimmel Center yesterday preparing for the university's first NYU Plans 2031 open house in almost two years, angry Village residents gathered right outside for a press conference to voice their concerns.
The rally, organized by Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and a notorious critic of NYU expansion, took place immediately before the university's "NYU 2031: NYU in NYC" open house.
"This long-term plan is disrespectful of neighbors, culture, history and community," said Kurt Cavanaugh, managing director of the East Village Community Coalition. "It appears only concerned with the growth and expansion of NYU and with no other values."
Village resident Bea Wallace attended the rally because she said the university is destroying the area.
"I have seen buildings coming up and lack of services provided for the people coming in," she said. "The area is certainly not the Village. It's not what it was."
Soon after the rally ended outside of Kimmel, many of the protesters moved inside.
The 10th floor was filled with 3-D neighborhood models and informational posters. Members of the university and design and construction firm were present and ready to answer questions.
Despite the university's efforts, Martin Tessler, a former Community Board 2 chair, was still hesitant about the university's expansion efforts.
"They dialogue with the community, but they don't listen to the community," he said.
NYU spokesmen John Beckman, also at the event, admitted the tension in the room was palpable.
"We're going to have to earn people's trust," he said. "12th Street was a low point in community relations."
NYU demolished the historic St. Ann's church on 12th Street and Third Avenue in March 2007 to make room for Founders residence hall, the university's newest dorm. The university eventually agreed to keep the church's facade.
But Ian Dutton, a member of the community, was optimistic. He thought the open house showed how far the university has come.
"I think starting the process this way is a good sign," he said. "I have the sense this is the turning of a new leaf. Though there is some skepticism that it can't happen the way it is proposed."
But Judith Callet, resident chair of the Bleecker Area Merchants' and Residents' Association, said the university has plans of its own.
"NYU used to be a part of our community," she said. "Now, it appears our community is becoming a part of NYU."
Rather than continue to expand in the Village, Berman proposed outside locations.
"If NYU is to grow, they need to think outside the box and locate facilities outside of the Village, especially considering areas like the Financial District, which are crying out for what NYU's presence could offer," he said.
The university's next outreach event is the "Community Board 2: Arts and Institutions Committee" on Monday at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 41 on 116 W. 11th St. between Sixth and Seventh avenues.