NYU Seeks Variance for New “Spiritual Center” Development
NYU has filed an application with the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) for variances which would exempt it from various height and setback requirements for a proposed new ‘Center for Academic and Spiritual Life’ on Washington Square South, Thompson, and West 3rd Streets. The BSA is expected to make a decision in early February, leaving the public only until January 26th to provide feedback.
GVSHP has several strong concerns about the proposed NYU development and the variances it is seeking. While the “as-of-right” building (without variances) would require multiple setbacks and be much taller and narrower, by seeking permission for no setbacks whatsoever NYU would place a large, squat building on narrow Thompson and West 3rd Streets which would shadow neighboring buildings (including the landmarked Judson Memorial Church) and loom over these low-scale streets. GVSHP has consistently urged NYU to include at least a small setback on these narrower streets, but the university has refused.
Additionally, in order to qualify for these zoning exemptions, the law requires that NYU must prove that they are absolutely necessary to meet their “programmatic needs” and are the minimum required to do so, and that the exemptions would not change the character of the neighborhood or negatively impact surrounding properties if granted. This does not appear to be the case here. As NYU intends to seek multiple zoning variances or changes for many large developments around this area as part of its “NYU 2031 Plan,” it is critical that the university be held to the letter of the law in all cases and not be allowed to sidestep zoning protections when they do not meet these legally required standards. GVSHP has urged the BSA to consider this when reviewing this application.
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