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NYU Development Would See School Towers Replace Playgrounds and Dog Run

By DNAinfo Staff on May 17, 2010 7:27am  | Updated on May 17, 2010 12:34pm

Mercer Playground which was initiated by the Lower Manhattan Neighbors' Organization.
Mercer Playground which was initiated by the Lower Manhattan Neighbors' Organization.
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Courtesy of Terri Cude

By Nicole Breskin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Two playgrounds, a community garden and a dog run would be torn down and replaced with skyscrapers under New York University’s latest expansion plan for 2031.

Plans currently displayed on an NYU website show the development spanning residential strips in the heart of the Village. The Mercer Playground and Mercer-Houston Dog Run, along with a run-down reflection garden and playground area, would be transplanted by school buildings, according to the plans.

Mercer Playground — which was initiated and financially supported by locals to make the area more inviting to residential communities — will be replaced by a curved high-rise academic building, according to the school's descriptions alongside the artist's rendering.

NYU 2031 development plans for the Washington Square Village area.
NYU 2031 development plans for the Washington Square Village area.
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NYU 2031

The Mercer-Houston Dog Run, along with the reflecting garden and adjacent playground, which are currently fenced off and not in use, will be run over by a “zipper building” that will contain a gymnasium and student dorms.

NYU will create a handful of new open spaces in the area that include a “Light Garden” with a “gently sloped, richly planted landform," according to the university.

School officials wouldn’t discuss plans for the site or how far negotiations have progressed with the Department of Transportation, which currently owns the land.

“We will be working with the various interest groups over the coming months to look at options for integrating the current uses of those spaces into the long-term future of those blocks,” said the university’s vice president for government affairs and community engagement, Alicia Hurley.

“There are certainly people who would like to have those areas left completely as is, the onus will be on the university to work with the groups to attempt to plan the site in a way the achieves a recognition of the past achievements of the spaces and integrates them into the site as we hope to modify the site over the next 30 years.”

But community members are already nervous about possible plans and working on grassroots efforts to stop developments before they get off the ground.

“NYU should leave the green strips alone,” said Terri Cude, who lives adjacent to the park. “Where else will kids in the neighborhood learn how to ride a bike or go to play? Park space is so rare in this area.”

Cude recently started a group called Save The Mercer Playground that she says is now gaining momentum for preserving the area — the only one in the neighborhood that allows use of scooters, roller skates and skateboards, she says. She is also part of a group called SuperBlocks Coalition that aims to curtail over-development.

The cause has also reinvigorating longstanding activists who had initially helped pioneer open space in the neighborhood.

A "zipper"-roof building will be built where Mercer-Houston Dog Run currently stands.
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NYU 2031

“These park strips are public and should stay that way,” said Enid Braun, former president of Lower Manhattan Neighbors' Organization that helped establish the playground. “No-one from the public will feel invited to an interior school campus.”

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who heads up the Community Task Force on NYU Development, told DNAinfo he was condifdent that the community and the university could come to an agreement.

"I am confident that we will be able to reach an agreement that balances both the needs of the community and the university," Stringer said.

"The bottom line is that Greenwich Village needs open space, and we do not want the development plans of NYU to impede residents’ access to that space.”

A series of meetings and hearings will take place in the upcoming months on NYU’s development.

On Monday night, Community Board 2 hosts a presentation of NYU’s plan to be carbon neutral by 2040.