NYU vs. The Village: Fighting for Scraps
Yes, NYU is an infectious disease taking over lower Manhattan. But the sad truth is, the host would be terminal even if we found a cure tomorrow.
The debate about the “NYU 2031” expansion plan pits two sides against each other: the pro-growthers, who are all about bringing jobs and safety and wealthy families in, and the pro-Villagers, who are satisfied with the way things are and think that NYU has already made the neighborhood as empty as the Washington Square Park fountain its students drunkenly piss in.
Yes, NYU has radically reshaped the Village, and continues to do so, but are they really destroying anything that hasn’t already been destroyed?
You hear a lot of people complain that the Village is an artist’s community, and that after this expansion its history and character will be ruined. Artists haven’t lived here since the eighties, when the rents skyrocketed. The debate makes it seem like the only thing keeping down crime and destitution — and with that killing the artsy Village of memory — are purple flags and missionaries in Uggs.
NYU undeniably played a role in the destruction of The Village that we all wish had never happened, and hating them for it will remain a favorite New York pasttime, but at this point it really doesn’t make a difference if they add a few more buildings.
There’s something to be said of feeling nostalgic for places. They are our homes. They are the places that belong to us because something significant to us happened there.
But that’s gone. The Village is now a hoity-toity boutique of boutiques, cafes, and yes, colleges. It’s only a place worth preserving now because we stand on a privileged platform from which we can say, “That’s valuable,” when the people who lived when these buildings were created would have rather had better buildings.