TESTIMONY OF MITCHELL L. MOSS
HENRY HART RICE PROFESSOR URBAN POLICY AND PLANNING
ROBERT F WAGNER GRADUATE SCHOOL OF PUBLIC SERVICE
NEW YORK UNIVERSITY
City Council of the City of New York
June 29, 2012
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee. My name is Mitchell Moss; I live at 100 Bleecker Street in the Silver Towers complex. I have been a full-time member of the New York University faculty since September 1973.
The essence of a university is the creation and transmission of knowledge; this requires face-to-face contact. Even in the age of the Internet, there is no substitute for direct human interaction. In fact, as we increasingly rely on email and online information, those institutions that foster the flow of ideas and information directly between people are becoming more valuable. And this is precisely why universities require laboratories, classrooms, seminar space and residence halls for students and faculty to test ideas, share insights, challenge widely held doctrines and pursue new lines of research.
The NYU proposal to build new structures on the superblocks will bring together faculty, students and academic units that are now highly dispersed in a variety of locations. Propinquity produces interaction. The concentration of faculty and students in close proximity to each other creates a climate that fosters intellectual life and productive scholarship. There is substantial research that identifies the benefits of “clustering” similar industries near each other; it facilitates interaction, creativity, and innovation.
During the past half century, New York City has witnessed a transformation in its economy and population. I have prepared a chart listing a sample of the business firms that were once in New York that have since moved to another city, gone out of business, or been taken over by another firm. You may recognize names such as Lehman Brothers, Farberware, Gimbel’s, Abraham & Straus, Gertz, E.J. Korvette, Crazy Eddie, Swingline, The Wiz, Ebinger’s Bakery, CBGB, Bohack and Gage & Tollner.
Let me contrast these firms with New York University. It remains here, a vital part of New York City, a magnet for students and faculty from around the world. It is not abandoning our city but rather reinforcing its commitment to our city.
The proposed rezoning will not destroy Greenwich Village or the surrounding community. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has designated much of the area to the east, south, and north of the superblocks as historic districts; therefore, the proposed NYU rezoning cannot possibly change the existing pattern of development in the historic districts of SoHo, NoHo, and lower Fifth Avenue, as well as on the Silver Towers landmark site itself.
Let me also point out that the area between Broadway and Washington Square Park has been filled with manufacturing structures for more than 100 years. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, the site of one of the city’s worst fires, occurred in a building that has since been converted to classrooms and laboratories. This section of Greenwich Village differs considerably from the West Village, where Marc Jacobs has overwhelmed the legacy of Jane Jacobs.
More than ten subway lines are located within about a quarter mile of the superblocks under consideration. Environmentally sustainable urban development should occur in close proximity to mass transit. Furthermore, students, faculty and staff who live in New Jersey can easily reach NYU via the PATH, which has a station located at 9th Street and Sixth Avenue, a few blocks from NYU’s Washington Square campus.
Attached is a map highlighting the density of subway lines serving the area surrounding New York University. Greenwich Village is one of New York City’s most transit-dense areas, with service provided by the A, B, C, D, E, F, M, N, R, 1, and 6 trains. If new buildings cannot be built near this dense concentration of subway lines, then where can we build anything in the City of New York?
Finally, let me call your attention to one group: the canines that rely on the Mercer-Houston Dog Run. This community-operated dog run draws upon dog owners from all parts of the city and is run on a volunteer basis. This community resource certainly warrants appropriate space on the superblock site.
Thank you for your time. I will be pleased to answer any questions.