“Because the University Center will occupy one of Manhattan’s busiest corners, a lively conversation about its construction and design continues to develop in the media. The New School maintains an archive of major coverage about this project with links to relevant stories and commentary.”
This is what is stated in the “In The News” section of the New School’s University Center webpage. It archives the positive media attention, yet fails to mention the numerous negative articles criticizing the initial construction and design of the new building. Here we will uncover those missing articles which somehow got overlooked in the building’s news archive. This post will be focused on the city community vs. 65 Fifth Ave. (Although there was negative feedback from the school’s students and faculty on its design, intentions, and cost, it will not be included in this particular post.)
Initial proposal and the fight against it
Seeing the almost finalized design today, many people may not know that the building that stands before us was nothing like the school’s original plan. In fact, the original design was a proposal that faced much opposition over the course of a few years, roughly from 2007 to 2010. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, an organization that fights to “preserve the architectural heritage and cultural history of Greenwich village” to protect “a sense of place and human scale that defines the Village’s unique community,” had major concerns from the board and community members for the building’s initial design, a 300 foot glass tower shown above. The problem was that, because the building site did not technically sit within a designated historic district, the New School was not required to comply to approvals and zoning regulations regarding historic preservation. Concerned neighbors would just have to plea for changes to the design. In a 2007 letter from the executive director of the GVSHP, Andrew Berman writes to President Kerrey, asking that the new building “respect the largely residential context around it and not look too much like a glass-walled office building.” As many of us can see is happening in many parts of downtown Manhattan, including Greenwich Village, East Village, etc., the quirky architecture that makes up the unique neighborhoods are being torn down and overshadowed by mundane, enormous corporate and residential buildings, void of character and historical context. You can’t blame Greenwich Village for hating the original proposal — they were just fighting to preserve the neighborhood, much like urban activists such as Jane Jacobs did back in the 1960s.
Complying with City Regulations
By 2009/2010, The New School complied with all the input by the community, partially due to budget constraints and the desire for more flexibility by sizing down. This was a small victory for Greenwich Village residents who was happy to hear that the all glass building would not tower over the neighborhood. In a 2012 article by NYCurbed titled “The New School is a Much Nicer Neighbor Than NYU,” the GSVP wrote that “huge changes” were made in response to the reactions of the community, and that “many (if not all) of the public’s concerns were addressed.” The New School decided to comply with all zoning rules and light/air preservation requirements, without asking for special exemptions. This was contrasted with the new NYU development proposal, which would ask the City Council to bend and break many agreements with thecity. This was a good step made by the New School, shedding a more positive light on the institution and how it did its best to respect the city community. The building we see standing today is this same design proposed three years earlier. Good for you, New School!