This article was originally published by the invaluable NYU Local and is reposted here with permission.
This morning, a crowd of over 60 students, faculty, and Village residents picketed Bobst, marching around the library’s red sandstone columns in the light rain. For a little under an hour, the group expressed their opposition to NYU’s 2031 plan, which its opponents characterize as aggressive real estate expansion that threatens the historic character of the Village.
The demonstration, jointly organized by NYU4OWS and NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, was the NYU kick off of May Day, a nation-wide general strike called by Occupy Wall Street.
“We’re just generally upset by NYU’s corporate strategy,” explained Peter Wirzbicki, an organizer with NYU’s Graduate Students Union. Wirzbicki expressed optimism that NYU would scale back their plans again (beyond the 16% cut the university announced last month). “We’re trying to publicize the faculty departments that voted against the plan,” he said.
Indeed, faculty represented the largest contingent at the picket. Christine Harrington, a politics professor, marched with a bright sign that read “Politics Department Opposes NYU 2031.”
“We were the first one to do it,” Harrington said. Now, 27 departments have passed resolutions against the plan.
One art history professor who hesitated to give her name (“I’m not tenured,” she cautioned) said she had canceled her office hours in honor of the general strike. The professor, who herself holds two advanced degrees from NYU, sympathizes with her current students. “The student debt is just crippling,” she said.
Also present in force were the usual crowd of neighborhood residents, who miss no chance to oppose NYU 2031. Milton Polsky, a former faculty member at Steinhardt and current Washington Square Village resident, opposes NYU’s proposed new buildings. “We resent and object to them putting up massive towers on green space,” he said. “I don’t mind NYU,” Polsky continued, gesturing at the NYU baseball cap he sported. “What I object to is turning this residential zone into a commercial zone. Promises have been broken,” he said.
Public Safety officers stood outside the library’s revolving doors, checking IDs to enter the building. Inside the atrium, a few NYU administrators watched the crawling picket line and chatted. One public safety administrator confirmed that his department has been preparing for May Day “for weeks.”
Unsurprisingly, the protest met with the usual mix of disdain and apathy from NYU students.
“Haven’t these idiots cost us enough money in taxpayers dollars,” one Steinhardt masters student loudly exclaimed as he swiped in to the library. Shannon Foreshee, who objected to the money spent policing Occupy Wall Street events since the movement began in September, had little sympathy for NYU4OWS’ concerns about the university’s high cost. “I’ve found ways to pay for it,” she said.
Ian Sykes, a Steinhardt undergraduate, felt that he wasn’t well informed about the 2031 plan. “NYU 2031 seems like it’s going to cost a lot of money,” he said. Ultimately, he was neutral towards the protest. “As long as they keep the library open,” he said as he swiped in.