A meeting with the New School’s President, Bob Kerrey, was arranged by Councilmember Rosie Mendez and took place February 27th at the New School’s Orozco Room. Others in attendance were NYS Senator Tom Duane, NYS Assemblymember Deborah Glick, representatives from the offices of City Council President Chris Quinn and Borough President Scott Stringer, Andrew Berman of Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Brad Hoylman of Community Board 2, and Wally Rubin of Community Board 5. Jane Crotty of Arzt Communications and other executives from the New School were also in the meeting. Susan Kramer and Bob Myrstad represented neighborhood residents on behalf of Village Residents Alliance.
Very good news is that their originally proposed 350′ tall building is off the table. According to Kerrey, given current economic conditions, it was “way too big, too expensive” and they are now designing an “as-of-right” building which will be “considerably smaller.” This could mean a tall, thin tower on the smaller eastern lot, next to Amalgamated Bank, with a lower building on the larger western lot. They will not ask for variances which would have produced a far larger, bulkier building without setbacks. This new plan would allow greater light into the Fifth Avenue/14th Street area than the former design and was the preference of community members who have been weighing in on the issue.
When asked by Bob Myrstad about Douglas Durst (a NS trustee) being developer and the possibility of a mixed-use building, Mr. Kerrey responded that a developer would not be the owner. The building would be owned by the New School. Kerrey said that it was unlikely that part of the building would be residential. However, he was not pressed about nor did he address whether dormitories could be a part of the design.
New School Executive V.P. & C.O.O., Jim Murtha said that a study was just about to be completed regarding traffic patterns and how student enrollment could affect the area. VRA and others have requested that the entrance of the building to be either centered mid-block on Fifth Avenue as it is presently, or moved to the corner of 13th Street to alleviate some of the pedestrian overcrowding on 14th Street. The previous design showed an entrance on the corner of Fifth and 14th.
Mr. Murtha did say that glass is more expensive than masonry, so we are hopeful that they are considering CB2’s recommendation of materials which would suit a building set among turn-of-the-century architecture, rather than their original all-glass design which appeared more like a mid-town office building. The New School’s Baumann Brothers Building, used by Parsons at 22-26 East 14th Street, was recently landmarked. Murtha stated that as a good neighbor, they did not object to that designation. We encourage that connection to the neighborhood and that this new building would be contextually built into such a setting.
We were assured that 65 Fifth Avenue will remain open at least until summer, serving administrative and some study needs, though the regular academic activities have been relocated. Murals will be installed over the empty storefronts along 14th Street, which should help relieve their vacant look. The NS planned to present the mural designs to Community Board 2 as a courtesy.
Though asked for, no timeline was given for completion of initial drawings for presentation to the NS Board of Trustees, which approves such decisions. And there was no trustee present at the meeting to comment.
Jim Murtha promised to “build straight through,” and not leave a hole in the ground. We were assured that the NS was in good enough financial strength to build this downsized building and that the project would not stop midway with a half-finished construction site, a fear of residents.
After a year of little to no information from the New School since their community forum held jointly with CB2 in March of 2008, the city electeds all pressed for a continual flow of information as it becomes available. Concerned citizens had been dealing with rumors, mostly untrue, which for the most part were left unanswered by the New School. But with this February 27th meeting, we think the New School heard us loud and clear. Communications between the NS and the community will be greatly improved as they agreed to provide new monthly updates (see below) as well as 60 days’ notice before permit filings.
We are happy to have finally had another opportunity to sit down and talk with the New School officials and to bring some light into the process of the expansion of their student facilities. As Andrew Berman said, let us move forward with a “consultative relationship” rather than an adversarial one. As plans progress, Village Residents Alliance will continue to keep you informed and to be a very active member of the consultative relationship.
And a special thank-you on behalf of all of us at VRA goes out to Council Member Rosie Mendez’ Chief of Staff, Lisa Kaplan, for pressing for this meeting and getting all the other electeds on board. Thanks Lisa & Rosie!
65 5th Avenue Update from Jane Crotty, New School Spokesperson March 2, 2009
I hope this email finds you warm on this cold and wintry day.
Thank you for attending the meeting at New School on Friday 27, 2009. We look forward to a more routine communication around the first of every month to keep everyone updated on the status of 65 Fifth Avenue. However, if you have any questions or concerns, my number, is 212-608-0333, please call at anytime so we can discuss or if I am not in, please leave a message and I will return your call .
New School President Bob Kerrey hosted a meeting with local officials on Friday, February 27, to discuss the university’s plans for the proposed new building at 65 Fifth Avenue. At the meeting, Kerrey announced that the university is still in the planning stage. As of now, the Board of Trustees has taken no action. It is hoped that this spring, the Board will give the “go ahead” to begin the schematic design process that is expected to take a half year or more.
Due to the economic crisis, the building will be scaled back in height and square footage. The development will be” as of right” and will not require additional air rights. This means the project will comply with all applicable zoning regulations and does not require any discretionary action by the City Planning Commission or the Board of Standards and Appeals. Air Rights, or “Unused Development Rights ” refers to the difference between the maximum permitted floor area and actual floor area.
The purpose of the building will be to serve the growing number of degree students and it will include a library and study space. The building process as we go forward will include consultation with both students and faculty on the revised plans.
I look forward to out continued communication. Please let me know if I should include others on this list. Thank you.
Jane R. Crotty
Senior Vice President
George Arzt Communications
123 William Street
New York, New York 10038
To add yourself to the list for updates from Jane Crotty, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
To add yourself to the list for VRA updates, contact us at VillageResidents@aol.com
Students asking for the removal of New School President Bob Kerrey occupied New School’s buildings at 65 Fifth Avenue and 55 West 13th Street. This comes after an overwhelming vote of no confidence by faculty last week of both Mr. Kerrey and V.P. Jim Murtha. Please see the article in the New York Times for details. This of course puts a new twist on the declining possibilities for the planned new building which was heavily supported by both Kerrey and Murtha.
Yesterday New School maintenance workers confirmed the building is being emptied, saying demolition was slated for the end of December or after the holidays. Gothamist confirms this saying “that the building will be undergoing asbestos removal next week in preparation for its eventual demolition.”
With lobbying from Village Residents Alliance, Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, along with Jerrold Nadler, Tom Duane, Deborah Glick, Christine Quinn and Scott Stringer, recently sent a letter to Mr. Kerrey requesting a meeting on the status of 65 Fifth Avenue. As of this date, there has been no response to the letter, dated December 12th. With the turmoil between the New School and its students, whose loud protest chants I can hear between the police sirens tonight, I’d imagine a response to the community about its plans will not be forthcoming.
Interestingly, the protest against Kerrey has brought out a protest against the demolition of 65 Fifth Avenue, especially since there has been no alternative space offered in the interim for studying. It makes no sense to have a university without a central space provided for a library, studying or gathering, which appears to be the case. Now that the reality of the building being emptied of classrooms and administrative offices is theirs to witness, the loss of this building is finally hitting the students. And the proposed new building is just another thorn in the side for Kerrey as far as the students are concerned.
Following are some blogs including excerpted comments regarding Bob Kerrey, the occupation and the proposed new building.
December 18, 2008
“New School Occupation Day 2: The Revolution Will Be Blogged
By John Del Signore
It’s been an eventful day for New School students occupying a dining hall at the university’s Graduate Faculty building at 65 Fifth Avenue. The group, estimated to be between 75-150, has been hurriedly posting blog “communiques” about the situation as it develops. This morning they reported that “a couple of our comrades have been roughed up and a couple arrested.” Then, around noon, New School President Bob Kerrey arrived and tried to dialogue with the students, but according to one communique, “we responded by refusing to negotiate with him and repeating our demand that he immediately resign. He left and took his police with him.” Now Kerrey’s blog is down due to “technical difficulties.” Comrades have occupied the Internet! Now the New School Free Press tells us that students are debating about continuing the occupation through Christmas break, which is a month long. One potential snag is that the building will be undergoing asbestos removal next week in preparation for its eventual demolition.”
And the following is excerpted from one of the comments to the above Gothamist article, with my bold face:
“The GF building [65 Fifth] was–to me, and many others–the New School. Why? Because it was the primary place to do school work. There were, in fact, few other places for students to work. Yes, there were chairs in hallways, etc., but the GF was where I went when I wanted to have peace and quiet, and to do serious work. It was our library, for all intents and purposes.
To be blunt, not having the GF would’ve made my going to the New School a very, very bad investment. I paid a substantial sum to go to that school (which I don’t regret) and I don’t fault students for lashing out. Working space is included in the tuition that is paid for education; if the administration cannot provide a replacement space immediately, then they lack the justification to take it away. I have visited to colleges that cost significantly less than the New School, yet still manage to provide more extravagant and spacious libraries than the New School. If you ever go into the GF building, you know that this is not extravagant. It is… well. An ugly building. But it’s what we had.
Furthermore, it’s well known among students and faculty that the “politics” of New School administration is f—–d. The worst part of the New School experience is the constant sense of disarray, disorganization, and laziness that the administration radiates. To me, the notion of attempting to actually stop the administration from tearing down this building “via dialogue” is a false positive. It wouldn’t happen….
…None the less, it was not long ago when I was finishing up my degree at that school, and so I know better than to simply write this off. Personally, I wouldn’t have had the guts to stop the administration from tearing down the GF building. I wouldn’t have done something like this. But I know that there are very serious students at that school. And I know that if the GF is gone, and there is no replacement, many will not have a place to do class work.
I just hope these people don’t hurt anyone, or get themselves hurt. It’s not worth that… if the administration insists, despite the strong outcry of their students, to tear the building down, then perhaps the students should find another school. That’s the best way to hurt the New School–take away their “investors”…”
And there’s not much on this blog, but just in case…
Here are excerpted comments to Bob Kerrey’s own blog:
“we don’t want the new building that’s being in the works to built primarily for parsons.
we want a student center. we want space.
we want to retain the identity of the new school for social research.
we want to improve and maintain our academics.
As pretty as the new lobby is, and as nice as the new building would be if it was being built funds could have been also channeled into students’ experiences and education. Offering them the tools they need to expand and survive. The New School isn’t a cheap school to attend but more money seems to be have been spent on making the wrapper pretty instead of infrastructure and making it a good and expansive learning environment for all students.
It’s imperative that the University supports its extremely qualified teachers and puts their needs above the desire to maintain an impressive facade. (e.g. the new building, etc.)
– While $$$ are spent razing good, studyable buildings
– To replace them with uninhabitable, unusable, shiny display spaces
– Great marketing at the expense of DECIMATING substance”
There could not have been a more apropos topic when The New School hosted “The Over-Successful City: The Struggle for the Character of New York City” on October 17th. Keynote speaker and Municipal Art Society President Kent Barwick discussed what New York might do to grow without losing its character, and what changes are necessary to realize the extraordinary opportunities for future development.
Mr. Barwick was asked “how do you balance an institution’s desire to expand, sometimes with a ‘signature’ building such as Baruch’s 800,000 sf vertical campus* or NYU’s Kimmel Center, neither of which fit in their neighborhood’s character? His response was “there has to be some sense of how they [the institutions] do it and at what scale, (…or they would create) a monotonous college campus. No one would be here after the students leave.”
VRA couldn’t agree more. We hope that we can take NS President Kerrey’s letter (see below) at face value and hold him to his commitment when he says, “…this institution will act as it always has, as a good neighbor… cognizant of its surroundings and its many friends in the community.” We hope that the new New School facility will be a shining example which is respectful of its architectural setting and residential neighbors, with whom President Kerrey promises “to consult broadly on our plans.”
Status of The New School Building Project on 14th Street at Fifth Avenue
It’s been very quiet along The New School (TNS) front, but the plan to demolish the present 74 Fifth Avenue site and put up a towering building are still very much alive. All that’s been confirmed by TNS spokesperson Jane Crotty of Arzt Communications, is that the design is still being worked on. Rumors have been flying that their once solid funding has diminished significantly, possibly meaning that TNS will bring in a commercial partner, so that the site will not be devoted exclusively to classroom space. One thing that you can plainly see is that the retail stores along 14th Street have been vacated in preparation for the eventual demolition of the building. So there is some movement on the part of TNS, although no plans have been filed with the City.
A group has formed, Village Residents Alliance (VRA), to rally residents as well as building owners and management. VRA, working with Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and Community Board 2, wants to ensure that there is an ongoing dialog with TNS. Based on their most recent presentation, TNS was requesting variances which would create a monolithic building which would dwarf the 188 foot high Victoria & Wedgwood coops across the street and rise straight out of the sidewalk without setback to a height of 350 feet. The now looming Cardozo building, by comparison, is a “mere” 262 feet high. That original design also showed an all-glass façade which would radiate light in the nighttime, certainly not a contextual design considering the turn-of-the-century buildings lining lower Fifth Avenue as well as its own block of 14th Street.
VRA has been graciously invited by the Victoria Board of Directors to make a small presentation and amass a list of concerned residents at a lobby meeting in late September. Neighboring buildings will be doing the same. VRA is preparing to show up in force at the next New School presentation. This list will also enable VRA to inform all neighboring residents of updates, upcoming meetings and calls to action.
You can contact VRA through Susan Kramer or Bob Myrstad via email: VillageResidents@aol.com. Please join VRA today.
The New School has responded to several requests for information to both city Councilmember Rosie Mendez and Community Board 2’s Chair, Brad Hoylman, with this letter dated October 1, 2008, as follows:
“I am in receipt of your letter of September 23 [& September 25] and would like to take this opportunity to address some of your concerns about The New School’s plan for construction at 65 Fifth Avenue. Jane Crotty expressed our position corrrectly to you. At present the university has finalized neither the concept nor the design for this building. That is why we are not prepared to present anything new for discussion and input.
We are aware of people’s concerns that our building could have an impact on the character of the neighborhood. It was in this spirit that we came forward early and voluntarily to discuss our plans. The New School and its architects did conduct two formal meeetings with community representatives to discuss conceptual plans for the site, at which we received considerable welcome input. Our plan is to act on as many of these ideas as possible.
As you know, building in the city at this time is costly and difficult. The crisis in the credit markets has put enormous pressure on every not-for-profit in our city. The New School is no exception. The future is nowhere near as certain as it was just six months ago. We have survived 90 years by being cautious with our finances and intend to continue doing so. That is why we will open our plans for further discussion when they are mature enough to produce an effective dialogue and when we can provide meaningful responses to legitimate concerns. The New School will not issue plans piecemeal or have one-off conversations about what we may or may not do. Such an approach would be shortsighted and would foster distrust in the long run.
The university has committed, and I commit once again, to consult broadly on our plans once we settle on them and once I have fully discussed them with the New School Board of Trustees. I ask for your patience and your confidence that this institution will act as it always has, as a good neighbor advancing its educational mission cognizant of its surroundings and its many friends in the community.
President [The New School]
cc: Hon. Christine Quinn, Hon. Scott Stringer, Hon. Jerrold Nadler, Hon Tom Duane, Hon. Deborah Glick, Community Board #2, Community Board #5, Village Residents Alliance, Union Square Partnership, Jane Crotty”