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The University That’s Eating New York! | The Nation

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Leslie Savan

Politics, media and the politics of media.

The University That’s Eating New York!

Even if you don’t live in New York City, you may have heard (or read in The Nation) about the fight against New York University’s $6 billion  twenty-year expansion plan that would gobble up large parts of historic Greenwich Village and inevitably raise already sky-high tuitions and student debt. Students and college towns face these sorts of problems everywhere, but in NYC the battle has been especially fierce. And despite a City Council vote late last month that approved the project, the fight isn’t over yet.

A very brief primer:

Despite the opposition of the vast majority of faculty, thirty-seven NYU departments, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) and the surrounding community, the City Council (led by likely mayoral candidate Christine Quinn in the video) voted 44-1 to approve the NYU 2031 plan, a k a the Sexton Plan, after university president John Sexton.

“It is stunning that the Council would vote to sell off public parkland, overturning long-standing agreements under which NYU was given public land a generation ago, just to satisfy the grandiose schemes of a private university’s super-rich board and president,” Andrew Berman, executive director of GVSHP, said in a press release. “The NYU expansion plan will turn a residential neighborhood into a company town and subject it to twenty straight years of construction.”

The historical society and the NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (NYU FASP) have vowed to keep up the fight by taking legal action and by launching StandUp4NYC, a group opposing “big development schemes” citywide.

A new book edited by my colleague (disclosure: I’m an NYU adjunct) and NYU FASP organizer Mark Crispin Miller puts all this in deeper perspective. While We Were Sleeping: NYU and the Destruction of New York compiles pieces by concerned writers, poets and Village legends, including Nat Hentoff, E. L. Doctorow, Jessica Hagedorn, Eileen Myles, John Guare and Philip Levine. (See Fran Lebowitz at the book launch here).

In one piece, author and NYU professor Andrew Ross describes the unholy alliance between Wall Street and academia perfectly:

With mortgage and other credit markets still in the doldrums, universities have become a very attractive option for investors looking for high returns on debt-financed growth. Money capital has poured into construction bonds, student loans, and other financial instruments spun out of the tuition bubble. When FIRE [the finance, insurance, and real estate industries] gets hooked on ICE [the intellectual, cultural and educational industries], the result (which writer could resist?) is a vast pool of melted water, in which the indebted are already half-drowning.”

Buy While We Were Sleeping here, and help raise funds for the legal fight to come.

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