Planning Chair Burden Praises NY4P Testimony at NYU Hearing

Friday, May 04, 2012
NY4P Executive Director Holly Leicht delivered testimony before the City Planning Commission and a packed crowd at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in Lower Manhattan last Wednesday. In a long day featuring presentations from a wide range of advocates, Committee Chair Amanda Burden thanked Leicht and NY4P for taking a “well-studied, well thought out, thoughtful approach.”

Our comments were based on our guiding principles that public open spaces should serve the greatest number of constituencies, and be preserved and well maintained in perpetuity.

In general, we support NYU’s goal of increasing public open space within the two-block area under consideration and making the new open spaces more publicly accessible and welcoming than the current configuration.  We commend NYU on making changes to the 2031 plan that improve the public space components, most recently eliminating the proposed temporary gym so that the Mercer Playground will remain untouched and open in its current location until at least 2025.  This change, and the previous commitment to map the playground site and several other strips of New York City Department of Transportation-owned land as permanent parkland, are important to ensuring short- and long-term public access to these open spaces. 

However, we called upon NYU to make three additional critical commitments before the project is approved:
·    NYU and the City must commit to not staging construction at Bleecker and LaGuardia on the   LaGuardia Corner Gardens, and to protecting and preserving that garden during any construction that occurs in its proximity.

·    Following the model recently adopted for Rudin Management's housing development project on the former St. Vincent’s Hospital site in the West Village, there must be a stringent maintenance and operations agreement in the restrictive declaration that lays out rules for occupancy, hours of access, closure, notification, use and permitting, and requirements for management, maintenance and repair, governance, oversight, compliance and enforcement. Since the restrictive declaration only covers land owned by NYU, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between NYU and the Parks Department should apply the same rules and requirements to the publicly-owned strips adjacent to NYU’s land.

·    The City should allow for flexibility in the open space plan so that the community can participate in the design and program of those spaces, particularly on the northern block, where construction won’t start for ten years. There needs to be a balance between holding NYU accountable for the quantity and quality of public space while ensuring the community has the opportunity to shape it as the needs of their neighborhood evolve.

Burden encouraged NY4P to participate in crafting the long-term maintenance agreement and to continue a dialogue with the City about how to find a balance between ensuring both accountability and flexibility in the open space plan. We look forward to working with NYU and the City to ensure that the public open spaces created under NYU 2031 are accessible to the broad public and well maintained for generations to come.

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