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2013 Village Award Winner: NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan

You don’t often hear “NYU” and “award” in the same sentence (at least not when GVSHP is giving the award).  But a bold and unapologetic group of NYU faculty who have spearheaded the charge from within against the university’s massive Village expansion plans was a favorite of the GVSHP Awards Committee this year.

Dave Hogarty/ny.curbed.com
One of NYU FASP’s many attention-grabbing actions:  digital graffiti on NYU’s Bobst Library.  Photo via Dave Hogarty/ny.curbed.com

Let’s find out a little bit more about this surprising and inspiring band of rebels who will be receiving a “Village Award” at GVSHP’s Annual Meeting on June 17th, and just how much they have managed to accomplish in a short period of time.

According to NYU FASP’s website,

NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan is a group of over 400 of NYU’s own faculty members who are working together to fight NYU’s outrageous multi-billion-dollar expansion in Greenwich Village. The Sexton Plan, we believe, is financially reckless (and will certainly result in rising tuition at a school where the students are the most heavily indebted in nation), disregards faculty input and governance, will further erode the rich cultural history of the Village, and will bring more than 10,000 more people in foot traffic per day to an already over-developed area with little green space, amongst other harmful effects. We urge NYU’s administration to focus on education, not real estate.


Many NYU faculty participated in and spoke at this rally in November, 2010, against the NYU expansion plan and specifically NYU’s plan for a 400 ft. tall tower in the Silver Towers complex.

My own first encounter with NYU FASP, or at least with some of the faculty who helped form the group, was in November of 2010, when GVSHP organized and helped lead a rally against the first official (and in many ways most odious) piece of NYU’s expansion plan — a 400 ft. tall tower proposed for the landmarked portion of the I.M. Pei-designed Silver Towers complex.  For one of the first times in our fight against NYU’s “2031” expansion plan, NYU’s own faculty were standing up and vocally opposing the university’s plans as faculty members.  We were successful in that part of the fight, and NYU dropped this heinous proposal for the tallest building ever constructed in the Village, which would have defiled the award-winning design GVSHP and neighbors worked so hard to get landmarked in 2008.

NYU FASP’s Bo Riccobono protesting the NYU plan.

NYU faculty had always spoken out against the university’s more objectionable development plans before, as many of them live in the community and care deeply about its character and future.  But given that NYU is their employer and frequently their landlord as well, many NYU faculty understandably chose to relay their objections discretely, or without necessarily identifying themselves as NYU professors.  Though some were open about their affiliation, they were individual voices, which the university tried to ignore, minimize, or discount, as they frequently do with all critics of their plans.

NYU Professor Patrick Deer speaking on behalf of NYU FASP at a rally in Washington
NYU Professor Patrick Deer speaking on behalf of NYU FASP at a rally against the NYU expansion plan in Washington Square Park.

But soon after, this organization was formed to give NYU faculty a vehicle for expressing their collective opposition to this plan, allowing them to make their individual identities as anonymous or as explicit as they chose.  NYU FASP then became a key participant in the public hearing process for the NYU Village expansion plan, lobbying the Community Board, the Borough President, the City Planning Commission, and the City Council to reject the plan.  They put a new and additional face on the opposition, making it clear that it was not just NYU’s neighbors who opposed the plan — the classic, and perhaps too-easily-ignored, “town-gown” conflict — but the NYU community itself.  They soon helped secure resolutions by thirty-nine departments and divisions of NYU against the massive Village expansion plan.

When the Manhattan Borough President, the City Planning Commission, and the City Council approved the NYU plan with only modest modifications, NYU FASP led the charge in securing highly-respected legal counsel, the international law firm of Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher, to represent opponents in a lawsuit against the approvals.  They helped put together a broad coalition (including GVSHP) of plaintiffs.  That lawsuit is now in the courts, and has been supported by sworn affidavits from two former New York City Commissioners agreeing with our contentions against the plan and the approvals it received.

NYU FASP member and NYU Professor of Media Studies Mark Crispin Miller speaks on the steps of City Hall, urging the City Council to vote “No” on the NYU expansion plan.

And NYU FASP has led the highly successful charge for votes of “no confidence” against NYU President Sexton, based largely (though not exclusively) upon his steamrolling through of the university’s expansion plan over the expressed objections of so many within the university community (in addition to professors, NYU staff, graduate students and teaching assistants, and undergraduates expressed vocal opposition to the plan).  The Steinhardt School, the Gallatin School, the College of Arts and Sciences, and Tisch Asia, among others, have all voted no confidence.

The No Confidence votes in President Sexton, spearheaded in large measure by NYU FASP, have received a great deal of attention.

Find out more about NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, cheer them and our five other wonderfully deserving awardees on Monday, June 17th at 6:30 pm at the GVSHP Annual Meeting and 23rd Annual Village Awards — RSVP here.

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