BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Area politicians recently wrote to Andrew Hamilton, New York University’s president, asking for “an update” on what the school plans to do about relocating the Morton Williams supermarket currently at Bleecker Street and LaGuardia Place.
On Nov. 9, the city’s School Construction Authority — after having sat on the option for years — notified N.Y.U. that it finally had decided to build a public school at the market site. Community Board 2 advocated for the school to serve special-needs students citywide.
Meanwhile, the city plans it to be a stand-alone building containing only a public school, meaning the market must find a new home.
Given the supermarket’s critical role in the community, plus N.Y.U.’s prior commitments on the subject, the politicians felt a need for clarification. The joint letter was signed by Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, Borough President Gale Brewer, state Senators Brian Kavanagh and Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Councilmember Margaret Chin.
“We are thrilled that the School Construction Authority recently agreed to New York University’s proposal for the creation of a new school at 130 Bleecker St. (current location of Morton Williams),” the politicians wrote Hamilton. “Given that the S.C.A. is moving forward with the construction of the new public school, we wanted to request an update on the related commitments made as part of N.Y.U.’s Core Campus Project (formerly known as N.Y.U. 2031).
“Morton Williams currently serves more than 3,000 customers every day and is the only grocery store in that section of Greenwich Village,” the pols pointedly noted. “As representatives of the community, we understand the importance of keeping Morton Williams on the superblock, so residents continue to have necessary and convenient access.
“We appreciated N.Y.U.’s public commitments in 2011 and 2012, as part of the approval process for the rezoning, that Morton Williams is expected to be relocated from 130 Bleecker St. to 181 Mercer St. (also known as the ‘Zipper Building’). We were also pleased to see that in a 2018 [Dormitory Authority] State Environmental Quality Review Statement as part of an application for nearly $800 million in bonds, N.Y.U. recommitted to this relocation when describing the Zipper Building to include ‘29,000 [square feet of] retail uses, including a replacement grocery store for the existing Morton Williams supermarket.’
“We request an update from N.Y.U. on how it intends to meet this longstanding commitment now that the S.C.A. has begun the school siting process.”
N.Y.U.’s two South Village superblocks — bounded by Houston, W. Third and Mercer Streets and LaGuardia Place —were rezoned in 2012 to allow for a planned four-building megaproject. As of now, one of those planned buildings, 130 Mercer St. a.k.a. “The Zipper,” is nearing completion. However, Lynne Brown, the university’s senior vice president for university relations and public affairs, recently told The Village Sun that, for now, N.Y.U. is only building 130 Mercer St.
“N.Y.U. has no additional construction planned at this time or in the near future for the superblocks,” Brown said in a statement.
Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist for Morton Williams, said it looks like no one expected that the public school actually would be built at the Morton Williams site, so the plan to relocate it to 131 Mercer St. simply fell through the cracks. Thus, Lipsky said, it’s really more of “a snafu” than N.Y.U. intentionally reneging on its pledge.
Also in their letter, the politicians told Hamilton they are concerned about saving the LaGuardia Corner Gardens, located just west of the supermarket. Previously, the S.C.A. did not respond when asked by The Village Sun about the gardens’ future.
“Additionally,” the politicians wrote Hamilton, “the Restrictive Declaration [for the superbocks special zoning of 2012] lays out N.Y.U.’s obligation to preserve or relocate the LaGuardia Community Gardens (adjacent to Morton Williams) and to establish a ‘Gardens Task Force’ as a guiding body, and to make best efforts to ensure the S.C.A. does so, should it exercise its option [to build a school at the site]. We request that N.Y.U. write to the Department of City Planning to begin the establishment of this task force, so that it can be in place to engage thoughtfully with the S.C.A.”
The elected officials concluded by telling the N.Y.U. leader that they would like to meet about the supermarket and gardens “to discuss these commitments and any others that may be impacted by the S.C.A.’s [building the school].”
Lipsky said Morton Williams and the politicians are awaiting N.Y.U.’s response.