Landscape Urbanism and NYU's Superblocks
NYU's Greenwich Village Superblock Plans. Photo via Curbed NY.
I first visited Greenwich Village in 1967. For a 17 year old Dylan fan, it was spectacular. Jazz, folk, rock, the bongos on Washington Square. Sure, decay was evident - NYC was in its transition from West Side Story to Bonfire of the Vanities, but the Village was the heart of the youth counterculture.
The neighborhood had overcome Robert Moses' attempt to turn Washington Park into an interchange and, thanks to Jane Jacobs and NY Democratic Boss Carmen Di Sapio, the Lower Manhattan Expressway was dead. Yet, the East Village was in the midst of a big battle with NYU. In fact, it still is. Over the last 50 years, NYU has damaged the East Village with brutalist concrete buildings and super blocks.
With landscape urbanist Michael Van Valkenburgh helping this time, will things work out differently? Probably not. Reestablishing the intense street grid apparently is not an option. Two boomerang shaped buildings are planned. NYU must feel that the East Village is short on boomerang shaped buildings. Van Valkenburgh probably deserves credit for listening to neighborhood opponents and reducing the vertical scale of the project. The IM Pei 40 story tower is dropped. But NYU will remain an unloved campus in a beloved neighborhood.
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