The architecture critic of Bloomberg News, James S. Russell, lays waste to New York University’s plans to add six million square feet of new space.
Russell’s piece does come a little late — how many weeks ago did the university unveil its plans? — but better late than never, I say. For I continue to be wholly ashamed of my alma mater and the way in which the feckless administration of President John Sexton tramples over Greenwich Village and, almost with glee, exacerbates its sour relationship with locals by lying to their faces.
Russell laces into the university’s expansion plans by briefly touching on what a colossal upchuck of bad urban planning distinguishes the campus and then — well, he really hammers home the current administration for its “tin ear” and, again, its glaring and enduring insensitivity to community concerns.
His tone is almost malicious:
New York University obliterated most of a handsome stone 1847 church to erect a yellow-brick, 26- story dormitory that pierces the Greenwich Village sky like a jaundiced thumb.
Now NYU wants to expand by 6 million square feet.
The dormitory opened last year, fronted by the church bell tower as a trophy of NYU’s vandalism. It’s only the most embarrassing example of a decades-long onslaught of overbearing, banal new buildings and the imposition of fake history on one of the most storied U.S. neighborhoods.
What’s amazing is how little NYU spokesperson Alicia Hurley — she who turned her back to people at a community board meeting where people spoke against NYU’s demolition of the Provincetown Playhouse — had to say in response. In fact, while Russell indicates that he interviewed Hurley, she is actually not quoted. This could mean she was unquotable, which I would believe (it’s difficult to communicate when you’re turning your back to people), or it could mean she could not, to any measurable degree, answer Russell’s questions.
For example, he notes that
NYU keeps squandering opportunities. In a campus desperately in need of greenery, a plaza designed to provide a roof for a new power plant features an ugly set of planters that looked yanked from a catalog.
It could have made amends for the eyesores that line the southern edge of Washington Square Park with its Center for Academic and Spiritual Life, a project with expressive potential. Instead, a sallow coffin on stilts is going up. Boston architecture firm Machado & Silvetti has engraved its main fa√ßade with tree-form patterns that imbue no life whatever.
Which is why he asks:
Why does NYU squander its greatest fixed asset — its place in one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the U.S.?
Hasn’t Hurley the guts to answer it? Of course not. She’s paid by NYU President John Sexton to toe the line. How very Albert Speer.