NYU ‘Spiritual Center’ Variance Approved
On Tuesday the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) granted NYU its request for several exemptions from local zoning restrictions to allow them to build their planned ‘Spiritual Center’ on Washington Square South, Thompson Street, and West 3rd Street. Over the objections of various community groups (including GVSHP), neighbors, and Judson Memorial Church, the BSA voted to allow NYU to build with no setbacks whatsoever, though such a configuration would block light to the stained glass chapel windows of neighboring Judson Memorial Church and block light to narrow neighboring Thompson and West 3rd Street. NYU consistently refused to consider even small setbacks at the top of the building, as suggested by GVSHP and others, to help preserve the light to Judson and narrow neighboring South Village streets.
Perhaps even more disturbingly, the BSA granted NYU the variances in spite of the legal requirement that the university prove that such zoning exemptions were absolutely essential for them to fulfill their “programmatic needs” and that there would be no negative impact upon the surrounding neighborhood character or the use of neighboring properties (such as Judson Memorial Church). NYU’s 2031 Plan, to be released this spring, is set to call for an addition of about 3 million square feet of space for the university in this neighborhood, much of which will be dependent upon NYU securing similar zoning variances. GVSHP had raised this issue in its testimony to the BSA, and condemned the board’s lack of adherence to the law with this potentially precedent-setting decision.