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Greenwich Village Community Board Postpones Vote on NYU's Silver Towers Building

By DNAinfo Staff on November 9, 2010 11:56am

Diane Welton, a resident of Greenwich Village for 40 years, held up a sign in protest at the Community Board 2 Joint Landmarks and Institutions meeting Monday.
Diane Welton, a resident of Greenwich Village for 40 years, held up a sign in protest at the Community Board 2 Joint Landmarks and Institutions meeting Monday.
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DNAinfo/Gabriela Resto-Montero

By Gabriela Resto-Montero

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Community board members delayed a vote on the fate of the proposed NYU tower at the Silver Towers Complex as residents unleashed their fury against the university at a meeting Monday night.

"NYU is no longer simply an academic institution, it has become a real estate steamroller," Gary Tomei, of the West 13th Street Block Association, said at Monday’s contentious Community Board 2 meeting. "This building will be cited as a justification for future development."

Although board members indicated opposition to the plan Monday, they postponed an official vote on a resolution until the next full-board meeting.

At issue is whether NYU should be allowed to build within the existing landmarked I.M. Pei-designed Silver Towers Complex. The university has said they believe they should be exempt from landmark restrictions and be allowed to build on the site because their design would complement Pei’s pinwheel configuration without blocking sight lines.

Greenwich Village resident Megumi Williams at the Community Board 2 meeting Monday.
Greenwich Village resident Megumi Williams at the Community Board 2 meeting Monday.
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DNAinfo/Gabriela Resto-Montero

While the Community Board 2 is cleared to vote on a resolution about the matter, the binding vote will come from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission when they hear NYU's presentation sometime in January, said Alicia Hurley, vice president for the school's office of university relations and public affairs.

If the LPC rejects the university's proposal, the school will move forward with construction of a tower at the Morton Williams supermarket site next to Silver Towers, which is not landmarked and is already owned by NYU, Hurley said.

Frequent NYU critic Andrew Berman said the university's negotiating tactics strike him as hostile.

"To add insult to injury, NYU is now trying to hold a gun to our head, telling us to pick our poison, by threatening to build on the adjacent supermarket site if they are not given landmarks approval to build on this site" Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, told the board Monday.

"But this is a false dichotomy NYU wants us to buy into, and I urge you not to buy into it," Berman added, saying his organization was central to the push to get the site landmarked in 2008 in large part to shield it from NYU.

NYU spokesman John Beckman urged the board to take a less reactive approach to the university’s requests for space.

"We need to find a balance between institutions and the community," Beckman said. "Just saying no, no, no to NYU isn't really constructive."

Residents scoffed at the idea that Pei's design was incomplete and responded that the site was landmarked without any provisions for a fourth tower.

"It's like if someone were to come by and say, 'We're going to strengthen the Mona Lisa and put either a moustache or a beard'," said Jeanne Wilcke, a resident and president of the Downtown Independent Democrats.

The full board will vote on the tower design proposal at its Nov. 18 meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Grace Church School.