The Beast That Ate The Village

NYU Leo 2.jpg

As the 2012-13 academic year gets under way, more than
40,000 students from all 50 states and 130 foreign countries are attending the
graduate and undergraduate schools of New York University.  Some of these young scholars will undoubtedly
ride to school in upscale cars or limos: a year at NYU with room and board
costs almost $70,000, a handsome sum that contributes handsomely to the
university’s $2.25 billion in annual revenue.  
Computer printouts in hand, some of the newcomers will follow NYU’s
online directions and drive down Fifth Avenue to the university’s lair in a formerly
scenic area of Greenwich Village, one of Manhattan’s oldest and most historic
neighborhoods. “Fifth Avenue ends at the Washington Square campus,” NYU’s
directions helpfully conclude.

A few students may note that Fifth Avenue does not, in
fact, terminate at the NYU campus, but at Washington Square, a public
park.  However, those who fail to notice
this minor detail can be forgiven for assuming that Washington Square belongs
to NYU.  After years of watching this
celebrated park and nearby blocks treated like Monopoly properties by a private
corporation cloaked in scholarly robes, more than a few residents of Greenwich
Village also mistakenly believe that Washington Square belongs to NYU.  And if the university’s land grab continues, some day it might.

But before continuing the story of how a major American university
has chewed up, and is still gnawing on, the unique community that gave it
birth, let me caution the incoming Class of 2016.  The NYU websites you consulted in your college
search are not telling you how your future alma mater deals with the people who
live and work in Greenwich Village or, for that matter, anyone else who stands
in the way of their relentless real estate machine.     

You can, however, rely on NYU for an accurate early history
of the university. Founded in 1831 in lower Manhattan, the university soon
moved north to Washington Square, where it competed for space with New Yorkers
anxious to build homes facing open land. 
In 1894, NYU tore down and replaced the crenellated towers of its
original building on Washington Square and moved north again, transferring its
undergraduate campus to University Heights in the Bronx while its graduate
schools remained in Manhattan.  NYU
continued to expand in both locations, not an easy task for any developer. Manhattan
is the smallest county in the United States, and is by far the most densely
populated, with nearly 70,000 residents per square mile.  Every cubic inch is hotly contested.   It was in this confined space that NYU,
faced with thousands of WWII veterans attending college under the GI Bill,
launched an all-out campaign to convert historic Washington Square into its
personal quadrangle. 

Rid of Artists and Writers

In September, 1947, the university announced its design
for a new law school building on the southwest corner of Washington
Square.  Their plans, which required the
demolition of an entire city block, caused furious protest in the Greenwich
Village community.  More than 350
painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, composers, dramatists, writers
and other artists lived there.  These
classic Village studios and apartments -known as “Genius Row” — had been home
to such luminaries as Willa Cather, Eugene O’Neill, Theodore Dreiser and opera
star Adelina Patti.  Over the years these
artists and others had merged the tiny backyards of these buildings to form a
large and lovely common garden. 

Some 10,000 New Yorkers signed petitions demanding that
NYU cease and desist.  Why, they asked,
would a university theoretically committed to the arts tear down the homes of
hundreds of artists?  An October, 1947,
article in the New York Herald Tribune asked that same question, but noted, “In
the face of a studied silence, the university’s official attitude is difficult
to determine.  The deathless corporate
entity that is the university can well afford to wait.  Those whose lifetimes are short and who
cannot afford to wait are now fighting the battle of Washington Square. “

The battle was lost. 
NYU then, as now, posed as a cultural organization but was in reality a
ruthless and unrelenting real estate developer. 
Out went painters, composers and writers. In came law students.  The opposition didn’t stand a chance.  The land beneath Genius Row was owned by
another academic real estate combine, Columbia University, and the fix was in.  NYU, spewing deceitful platitudes, pretended
it was acting in the public interest. 
Even as its bulldozers flattened the studios of Genius Row, NYU
expressed its “belief” that the evicted artists would eventually come to accept
the university’s plan “with enthusiasm.” 
The contretemps, NYU hoped, would just be a “tempest in a teapot.”   

However, both the tempest and the teapot continued to
grow over the next ten years, as NYU added more and more Village property to
its real estate portfolio.  In the 1960s,
NYU stepped up its land acquisition program – land on which it pays no taxes —
by taking over an “urban renewal” project in the southeast Village.  Hundreds of loft and residential buildings
were torn down and public streets eliminated. On two huge superblocks, NYU
built a residential complex, a gym, and three 30-story residential towers,
which were partially offset by adding open space to the urban landscape.  

Controversial in the 1960s, the NYU superblocks are back
in the news as the university “that can afford to wait” pushes a massive new
expansion plan.  Called “NYU 2031”
(they’re way ahead of us, folks), the proposed development scheme seeks to
build on much of the open space that the university reluctantly conceded to the
community more than four decades ago. Since the New York City Council has just
approved the NYU plan, most of what remains of the Greenwich Village’s southern
border appears to be doomed.   


Nevertheless, opponents of “NYU 2031” are not giving
up.  The author E.L. Doctorow, who
happens to be a professor of English and American Letters at NYU, recently
wrote a newspaper piece in which he described the university as “colonizing”
Greenwich Village.  Doctorow made a point
that the defenders of Genius Row made 65 years ago:   “At the same time that it has boasted of its
connections to the cultural life and history of the Village, it has
methodically laid siege to it.”  Doctorow
concluded, “An expanded NYU should not be carved out of the Village heart.”  

New York University professes not to comprehend why so
many community residents simply don’t trust them. Perhaps I can explain it to
them. In 1974 my family and I moved to Washington Square, directly across the
street from the NYU Law School, the place where Genius Row used to be.  We lived next door to another NYU building,
which was home to the famous Provincetown Playhouse — a small theater where
Eugene O’Neill’s early plays were produced.  
At the time I knew little about NYU’s policies toward the community,
though I knew they had sold their campus in the Bronx for $62 million and were
consolidating their schools and facilities in crowded Manhattan. 

I learned more in the 1980s, when I served on Community
Board Two, Greenwich Village’s advisory panel on local issues.  I interacted frequently with NYU and found
the university alternately helpful and hostile on matters that affected life in
and around Washington Square.  For
example, the park was being overwhelmed by drug dealers, many of whom were
there to serve the illegal needs of NYU students.  Time and again I found NYU unresponsive to
community efforts to solve the drug problem.  
Their lack of interest was so striking that I mentioned to Tony
Dapolito, longtime chairman of the Village community board, that NYU seemed
uninterested in improving the quality of life around Washington Square.   

“Why should they want to improve it?” Tony replied.  “We asked NYU to reduce the size of its new
library on Washington Square.  We told
them the huge building would cast a deep shadow over a big area of the park in
winter, when sunlight is needed most.  
They said no. After the library was completed, they promised not to
build anything else on Washington Square South. 
They lied about that.  I realized
they don’t care if something makes the community unhappy.  A happy community makes real estate values go
up.   They don’t want us to feel at home
here.  It increases the cost of the properties
they want to buy.” 

the Provincetown Playhouse

I was therefore unsurprised when, in 2008, NYU announced
that it intended to tear down the Provincetown Playhouse and the building that
surrounded it.  The usual protestors
spoke out angrily, and eventually NYU agreed to save the historic theater’s
walls, an agreement they promptly broke along with the walls.  David Gruber, chair of the Institutions
Committee of Community Board Two, said: 
“If they could move the Temple of Dendur from Egypt to the Metropolitan
Museum, I don’t see why NYU couldn’t preserve four walls of a ninety-year-old
theater…” The Provincetown still exists, but without the details that made the
playhouse a gem in the world of American theater.    

Why does the university behave this way?  The answer may lie in its history
department.  When the robber barons of
early industrial America built factories, they often chose locations where
company payrolls and political influence gave them de facto control of just
about everything.  These locations were
known as company towns and the company executives were rich and imperious.  Decades ago, NYU — whose president makes
$1.3 million a year and whose professors typically earn $250,000 per annum —
set out to make Greenwich Village into a company town, and it has largely

Now it’s going after bigger game.  The apparatus of New York City government has
become an arm of NYU’s real estate program. The City Council, the Mayor and the
State Legislature are easy targets for NYU’s large and active force of
lobbyists.  NYU doesn’t make nice with
Greenwich Village and the City of New York because it doesn’t have to.   Its position as one of the largest employers
in a city where unemployment is at 10 percent gives it all the leverage it needs.

And so, members of NYU’s
class of 2016, as you follow NYU’s online directions, take heed.  Their maps will get you to campus all right.  But think long and hard before following the
examples your university has set before imitating its low, unethical
Decide if you want to live in a
society whose past has been erased to fulfill the grasping real estate
ambitions of today. 

Diane Whelton lives in New York. The
ground beneath her apartment building is owned by NYU.

Cartoon by Karen Leo.


19 thoughts on “The Beast That Ate The Village

  1. from you: “Ad hominem (hardly a fancy word): appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect”
    from some web definition thingee “attacking an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument.”
    From your posts here:
    “…Red State or Drudge Report? You and your way of thinking would be perfectly at home there, among those who likewise care nothing for the current problems in higher…. ”
    “a bitter Tea Party reactionary like yourself”
    “arguing with an angry, disillusioned crank who is simply itching for a fight”
    As to your detailed analysis of NYU building, I repeat in different words what I said in my post #1:
    NYU has built a lot of buildings on spaces which formerly were blighted or near-blighted. For successfully putting up so many buildings and saving large amounts of territory, NYU deserves some respect. OF COURSE NYU’s efforts have not been flawless. Any Monday morning quarterback can disagree. But then the onus should be on the critics not just to second-guess, but to show they have a better plan and can do better.
    NYU has survived a number of serious financial crises. Although I do not love everything NYU has done, I have great respect for its ability to survive and prosper. What roused my ire and caused me to write on this blog is I thought some of the critics of NYU were petty and they picked nits. Given the record over the years of NYU’s building and survival vs the record of NYU’s critics, I side with NYU.
    Yes, Sixth Ave is not on the NYU campus. The same goes for the most part for Greenwich Village…it’s not really synonymous with NYU’s campus. I guess NYU bulldozed a few GV memories. Can’t please them all. Putting it in another context, I know a few Native Americans who think any destruction of their sites going back to the first teepee in Manhattan is reprehensible. You can’t please em all.

  2. Meant to write “tax-exempt status” near the beginning of my last email. Typing too fast. All right, back to work. This entire NYU 2031 fiasco is as bad for faculty productivity as it is for our blood pressure!

  3. Sidney, this is likely to be my last response to you, as I’m beginning to feel that I’m arguing with an angry, disillusioned crank who is simply itching for a fight. Worse, you seem to suffer from problems of reading comprehension. As I explained in my first email, I’m tenured NYU faculty. And you’re the last person in the world to whom I have to prove my scholarly and teaching credentials, believe me. I have no idea what could have made you so bitter with everything from universities, which you deem businesses (lest we forget, NYU is then a “business” that also happens to receive federal grants and enjoys tax-expect status on its real estate), to students, whom you tellingly term customers, to the “B & T crowd,” who, along with all those awful tattoo parlors on 6th Ave. (which have absolutely no connection to NYU and the educational and local issues addressed in the present article whatsoever) you bemoan as having turned Greenwich Village “seedy.”
    You’ve been roused from your idealistic slumber, or so you say. And that’s why you’re the hard realist that you are today. I get it. That said, I’m genuinely sorry that, especially as a former teacher, you have become as cynical as you now appear to be, judging by your comments, when it comes to higher education. This isn’t a question, Sidney, of being an idealistic “hot-shot lefty in your NYU days” or me being a concerned NYU faculty member today, whether I’m 40 or 70. It has to do with what we do about it. Do we accept that NYU has grown out of control and is fast becoming a global real estate business, offering $58,000 degrees on the side from the Square to Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, or do we insist on meaningful reform, in which deserving, hard-working yet often low- or middle-income students get the opportunity to study with the best professors in the nation without having to go into debt for the rest of their adult lives. Or do you define earnings — rather than citizenship and a meaningful contribution to society — as the sole measure of success in today’s world? If so, we almost certainly won’t agree on much going forward.
    Now, since your first comments — in which I found no facts but only opinions, denigrating the Village as a run-down neighborhood somehow in need of “pimping up” — I will offer some facts with regard to what my University does do when given the opportunity to launch development projects in the immediate neighborhood. NYU’s reputation for undistinguished architecture, especially given its cost, is almost unmatched among its peer educational institutions … or perhaps even in all of downtown Manhattan. If you disagree, please explain why.
    As disastrous as the designs for NYU’s Kimmel Center and the new neighboring Spiritual Center (which needed a variance because the design violated the area’s R7-2 zoning regulations) have been, they are just the most visible examples in and around the Square. Kimmel, designed by Roche & Dinkeloo, undoubtedly had to be the most expensive. NYU’s architectural teams have also given the city the now-gutted and defaced historic Provincetown Playhouse (turned Law School offices) on MacDougal Street; the “interpretive reconstruction” of the destroyed Poe House on W. 3rd Street, with its now-completely characterless facade; and, most contentious in their intrusiveness, a mushrooming of the most disappointing dorm buildings anyone could ever imagine. The worst examples might be the 26-story E. 12th St. Dorm and the slightly smaller Alumni Hall on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 9th Street. I’m sure I’m forgetting many more. Why anyone would ever think that the current incongruous plans-by-committee would be any more successful — or, I should say, any less horrific — based on the administration’s track record over the last decade alone, I just cannot imagine. There’s a chronic history of the University producing one design failure after another. I realize that 1950-60s architecture is not to everyone’s liking. Maybe you don’t like it. Be that as it may, I would take I.M. Pei and Paul Lester Wiener over the monstrosities that we’ve seen time and again in NYU’s town hall Power Points and online renderings any day of the week, that’s for sure! The cruel irony is that the administration now seeks to decimate its greatest housing assets — WSV and Silver Towers, to say nothing of their green space — and, from what I’ve recently heard, is seriously considering selling off one of its best recent acquisitions (i.e., the Forbes Building) to raise funds for the planned expansion … in effect, cutting off its nose to spite its face. Note this excerpt from NYU’s own web page, announcing the purchase of the Forbes Building: “but this purchase is also consistent with the community-oriented planning principles that the University developed with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer two years ago, especially the emphasis on acquiring existing structures rather than resorting to new construction.” If only the University actually kept itself to these principles.
    Unfortunately, even when the University does acquire pre-existing structures, the administration has a very strange set of ideas when it comes to their actual intended function and student use. Just a few cases in point: the NYU Open House on LaGuardia Pl. (I walk down this street many times each day and never have I seen more than a couple of souls in this space at any one time and that’s including the receptionist); the Card Center on Lafayette and E. 4th St.; and the Bookstore turned pricey Argo Tea joint on Washington Place … as if there aren’t cafes (numbering well over a dozen) in the immediate neighborhood.
    And I haven’t even addressed the administration’s incredible squandering of space — empty faculty apartments, in particular. Now, I’ve presented a factual argument, Sidney. If you’re willing to do the same in defense of NYU’s expansion and its potential rewards both for the school and the Village, I’m eager to hear it.
    PS. Ad hominem (hardly a fancy word): appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect. That is to say, the very definition of what your comments, entirely bereft of factual support, regarding what you deem to be the “seediness” of the Village and your completely unrelated aside about Obama amount to. Again, if you want to have an adult discussion fine. But let’s drop the patronizing BS about “exposure to the non-academic world.” This isn’t an argument that you’re going to win.

  4. “turn away a bitter Tea Party reactionary like yourself”
    “ad hominem attacks on everything from what you deem unsavory, “seedy” businesses to Obama”
    From these two logical whoppers, I deduce you are a young student who is wet behind the ears.
    1. No for-profit business turns away paying customers, even those with beliefs different from their own. Only someone whose income is derived from sources unrelated to job performance could think profit-making businesses care a flip about their customer’s beliefs.
    2. You obviously don’t know the meaning of the term “ad hominem.” Maybe you think your readers are impressed by your use of a fancy term. In actuality, you beclown yourself by your misuse of the words.
    Your beliefs might impress your professors and gain you high marks. But I have no fear that once you graduate and compete in the real world all those fancy hot-house political beliefs will drop away. They did in my case. I was a hot-shot lefty in my NYU days. There wasn’t an issue of the Square Journal in the last two years of my undergrad years that did not have a rip-roaring reference to me or my then-girlfriend speaking truth to power, as you quaintly denominate yourself. But exposure to the non-academic world roused me from my slumber. The world simply does not work the way your profs would have you think.
    Come back here in two or three years and report back on the vast political changes you experience once you leave NYU.

  5. Q: “Which of the Sixth Avenue tattoo parlors is the faculty favorite?”
    A: Any that would turn away a bitter Tea Party reactionary like yourself, Sidney. That is to say, all of them.
    Honestly, if you are intent on making nothing but uninformed and inflammatory comments, why not go to Red State or Drudge Report? You and your way of thinking would be perfectly at home there, among those who likewise care nothing for the current problems in higher education and the consequences of its disturbing “Too Big to Fail” model but instead welcome any pretext to make ad hominem attacks on everything from what you deem unsavory, “seedy” businesses to Obama. We get it. NYU “pimping up” the Village good, historic neighborhood, diversity and green space bad. Your views can’t be clearer, but certainly don’t expect anyone who knows and cares deeply about this neighborhood — and NYU, for that matter — to take you seriously.

  6. “Where exactly is the blighted and/or seedy part that you’re referring to?”
    Which of the tattoo parlors on Sixth Avenue is the faculty favorite?

  7. “Where exactly is the blighted and/or seedy part that you’re referring to?”
    Which of the tattoo parlors on Sixth Avenue is the faculty favorite?
    I didn’t say the NYU nabe is getting seedier. And yes it was seedier in my time. Most of Manhattan is improving and getting more expensive (oops, with the exception of the Obama era). But that doesn’t change the fact that the NYU area is touch and go. Maybe you can buy an expensive house in the Village. But you’ve got to tolerate the B&T crowd wandering all over the place on weekends (and often leaving unpleasant momentos after drinking and dining in hot spots like Your Mother’s Mustache).

  8. Dear RM,
    Believe me, we (the faculty) have certainly done fundraisers — in theaters, bookstores, etc. — and will continue to do more. We also have skin in the game. We have individually donated as much money as each one of us can afford to help fund an impending lawsuit — on behalf of both NYUFASP and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation — to block the expansion (saving not only the neighborhood but also our university from itself … meaning the administration). That said, I can’t imagine that you seriously expect faculty to “buy up that property yourself.” Do you mean outbid our trustees, many of whom are out-and-out real estate moguls? Here, it’s important to remember, by the way, that NYU is not seeking to built exclusively on the footprint(s) of land that it owns; commercial rezoning of the precious city-owned green strips along Mercer St. (currently occupied by a public playground, a dog run, etc.) is also part of the administration’s land grab. All of this to say, RM, that the faculty is doing all we can, through NYUFASP and other channels, to stop this madness, believe me. But we also need the public’s support. You can donate to ( ). What’s happening in the Village, after all, is happening all over NYC, to say nothing of other “university towns,” as other posters have testified here.
    PS. As for Sidney Raphael’s comment, I have to say that I must question whether or not you’ve visited the immediate neighborhood around NYU since you studied and taught here. It’s getting “seedier”? Do you really mean that? If so, your standards for urban living must be Gramercy Park. Or Georgetown, D.C. And while NYU may very well be “pimping” up the neighborhood, I can’t imagine anyone (other than our real estate-crazed trustees) who in fact wants the Village to suffer such a fate. It’s certainly not the Village that newly recruited faculty want to be a part of. I’m guessing the same can be said for incoming students. Why the Village and not, say, Midtown then? What the hell’s the difference? What the administration is instead threatening to do is ruin rather than improve the neighborhood (by providing MORE green space rather than eradicating it), turning a vibrant community, full of all sorts of interesting cultural venues and popular small businesses, into a University Town. The award-winning Sasaki Garden in Washington Sq. Village — a residential block, not some derelict plot of unused land — would be turned into a concrete quad if the trustees have their way. If THIS is your idea of progress, all I can say is that we have a very different vision of what “neighborhood” and “community” actually mean.

  9. “Most of the territory around NYU has been a blighted area for a long time. Greenwich Village has been seedy for decades, and getting seedier.”
    Are you kidding, Sidney? Greenwich Village is one of the most expensive residential neighborhoods in the country, and rents are only going up, despite the poor state of the economy. Where exactly is the blighted and/or seedy part that you’re referring to?

  10. TruthToPower and others: Your voice of opposition is good, but it isn’t enough. You need to do more. The most obvious thing for NYUFASP to do is to raise money: do a “Save Greenwich Village from NYU” Kickstarter or something of the sort, and contribute some of your own money as well. When the NYU administration wants to expand somewhere (if any plans have been made public, study those), try to buy up that property yourself. Even if you don’t succeed in stopping them immediately, you can raise the prices they have to pay and bleed their coffers, which (unlike any level of social disapproval) is something the NYU administration will pay attention to.

  11. As a former NYU undergrad and grad student, and a former NYU faculty member I’m familiar with most of the history recited in this article. Actually, the article could have been reduced to a paragraph or two, something like: NYU’s been getting bigger and bigger, and most of its neighbors don’t like it one bit. What else is new?
    What the article doesn’t mention is that most of the territory around NYU has been a blighted area for a long time. Greenwich Village has been seedy for decades, and getting seedier. The few artists who still resided in the Village after the glorious 1930s were mostly bare survivors who could just about afford their bills at Balduccis. If NYU didn’t pimp up the neighborhood no one else would have. The only other source of income for the Village is the B&T crowd which pours in over weekends looking for kinky sex thrills.
    And if you don’t like paying the $70k a year to attend NYU, do as I did: get yourself an NYU scholarship to pay all your tuition.

  12. “But before continuing the story of how a major American university has chewed up, and is still gnawing on, the unique community that gave it birth” Sounds a lot like UC Berkeley. Without the city, the school wouldn’t be the same and vice versa, yet they are constantly at odds.

  13. Writing in as a concerned member of the NYU faculty, I echo Prof. Doctorow and cannot stress strongly enough to Ms. Whelton’s readers that this aggressive expansion is most certainly not our University’s plan. It is the NYU administration’s plan — and it will be its most shameful legacy. And yet our top brass is not and never has been the lifeblood of our institution — of any respected academic institution, for that matter. NYU’s students, faculty, alumni … it is WE who are the heart and soul of NYU. Pres. John Sexton most certainly does not speak for us. The faculty, for one, will never suffer this plan to go forward in our name. The bottom line is this: We, the faculty, to a person, love NYU the academic institution. The large majority of us, however, have nothing but profound distrust for the current administration and its reckless actions, actions that pose a grave threat not only to the neighboring community that has so long sustained our institution and shaped its character but NYU’s own intellectual community. In short, we are fighting as hard as we can to save NYU the university from NYU the corporation and real estate tycoon. As many as
    37 Departments, Centers and Programs (and counting) have passed resolutions against NYU 2031, a number sure to grow this fall. Most votes were unanimous. Counted among the departments’ number are the Economics Dept. (which includes no fewer than 3 Nobel Prize winners) and the Stern Business School (by a vote of 52-3), which should tell your readers something about the fiscal feasibility of this gigantic mistake. In the spring, the Faculty Senate Council conducted a survey regarding the plan. A full two-thirds of those faculty voting expressed opposition. In my own department, which also expressed no confidence in the plan, the common sentiment is that NYU has gotten far too big, far too fast. We are now the largest private university in the nation. Our peer institution is no longer the likes of Columbia, which has almost half of our student body and admits about 10% of its applicants compared to NYU’s 30%+; rather (all the while raising tuition by another 3.8% this year alone); rather, our peers are closer to Big Ten schools. It’s the “Too Big To Fail” fiasco all over again, but this time it will be students and their families that pay.
    In short, the level of faculty opposition to our administration’s ill-conceived plan is not only extraordinary, especially considering the risk that many of us are taking in speaking out not only against our employer but also our landlord. It is unprecedented.
    Nearly all of the departmental resolutions sound the same worried notes. If this academically and financially unjustified expansion does indeed materialize on its present scale, the faculty believe it will come with a fearsome cost. For faculty, like myself, the greatest price to be paid is the erosion of faculty governance (the present administration does not consult, it notifies) and our stewardship of the students placed in our trust. In light of NYU’s modest endowment
    ($2.8 billion compared to, say, Harvard’s $29 billion, with even the latter tightening its belt of late), who do you think will be hit with the bill for the $4-6 billion, a mere 18% of its 1.9 million square feet intended for instructional academic purposes in the first decade of construction? The very same students already paying over $58,000 in tuition, room and board per year — and drowning in debt, making NYU the nation’s 4th “Least Affordable College” in the entire country, public or private, according to Newsweek.
    About two years ago, at Alumni Day, President Sexton told an audience of alumni and guests assembled at NYU’s Skirball Center, “NYU isn’t for everyone.” This was said in response to a question by an alumnus regarding NYU’s climbing tuition costs. Little did Mr. Sexton realize how right he was. NYU sure isn’t for everyone. Not anymore. Under the current leadership, NYU is no longer just tuition dependent. It has become debt dependent, with the average graduate owing over $41,000. As article after article warns the American public, there is no more punishing, no more unforgiving debt than student debt. With student debt now climbing beyond $1 trillion and outstripping credit card, the debt bubble is on the verge of bursting. What will become of NYU when it does?
    Exactly forty years ago, NYU stood on the brink of insolvency. The faculty will not allow history to repeat itself, even if our president and trustees have forgotten or choose to ignore the lessons of the past. Faculty organizations like NYUFASP (NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan) will continue the struggle on behalf of our colleagues, our students — and the Village that NYU the university has so long called home and that our students have crossed states and oceans to experience. Our academic mission and the trust of our Village neighbors cannot and will not be betrayed, not on our watch. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” — Mahatma Gandhi

  14. NYU is banking that there are 50,000 rich, qualified students (they need their ranking) every year who want to go to the University. Instead of focusing on this multibillion dollar plan that is financed by increased tuition and student enrollment, NYU should instead focus on providing a quality affordable education.
    I also cannot understand why NYU has to grow when it is already one of the largest universities in student enrollment. Why do we need more of a product that costs nearly $70K per year that is subsidized by government debt?

  15. I suspect the story you tell is repeated at many urban universities. Here in Washington, DC, the George Washington University, which more than 20 years ago began an aggressive campaign of fund-raising and expansion, has virtually swallowed up the small neighborhood of Foggy Bottom where it is located, including many of the historic 19th Century townhouses that make it up. It’s neighbor to the northwest, Georgetown University, has been less of an issue, mostly because the campus faces certain geographical boundaries and because the Georgetown Community is larger and more politically powerful. GU has located some of its facilities, such as its law school, to other parts of the city. Perhaps with the likely bursting of the “higher education bubble” the economic fuel for this geographical expansion will be cut off, and it will subside.

  16. I think that THERMITE is the only arguement that the NYU Purple Monster understands. Use lots of it.
    Its us or its the blood sucking purple monster.

  17. Everything I know about NYU, both at second- and at first-hand (MA 1984), combines in a single general principle: New York University embodies everything it claims to be against, and does very little to advance the things it claims to embody. The above is further evidence of that. (BTW, my favorite bit of NYU hypocrisy is its strategy of improving its brand appeal by courting celebrity students, then making sure they stay satisfied by a combination of flattery, special privilege, and grade inflation.)

  18. Great article! Diane Whelton may be pleased to learn that much of the NYU faculty (whose average salary, by the way, is nowhere near $250K) stands with the community in opposition to the NYU 2031 plan as bad for the neighborhood and bad for the University. 37 NYU schools and departments have voted resolutions expressing opposition to the plan. The group NYUFASP
    (Faculty against the Sexton Plan) is working together with neighborhood groups such as Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation to try to block this. Our Facebook page is at
    I also have a personal web site on the subject at
    — Ernie Davis, Professor of Computer Science, NYU

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *