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New elementary school planned as part of NYU expansion

A longed-for new elementary school for Greenwich Village families may open in an unexpected location — a new building on a greatly expanded New York University campus.

NYU has committed to building a new 600-seat public elementary school as part of its plan to add 6 million square feet of space to its campus, the university announced today. The school offers a bright bargaining chip to NYU in its battle to expand its campus by 40 percent without alienating the neighboring community. Parents in the Village have complained about overstuffed classrooms and long wait-lists for neighborhood kindergarten seats.

But Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who has been a fierce critic of how the city has handled Manhattan’s school crowding problems, said he is confident that the plan is more than just an attractive ploy.

“The school is now off the table,” Stringer said. “It’s happening.”

Still, many of the details — including where exactly the school will be located, when construction will start or even if the university’s broader plan will be approved — remain up in the air.

Lynne Brown, senior vice president of NYU, said the university plans to include the elementary school building in one of the three superblocks NYU wants to build between Washington Square Park and Houston Street, but the exact location has yet to be determined. NYU will select the site with the input of the School Construction Authority and members of the Greenwich Village neighborhood, she said.

Another crucial detail that wasn’t immediately clear is whether the city or the university will own the school building. In some cases where the Department of Education has partnered with a university for school building space, the university has asked the school to leave when it needs the classroom space. (That was the case with University Heights High School, which must leave its space at the Bronx Community College after this year to accommodate a spike in the college’s enrollment.)

Some members of a neighborhood task force on the expansion questioned the university’s preliminary site for the school. “We’d welcome the school,” said Terri Clude, a member of Stringer’s task force and a resident of a building that will face one of the new superblocks. “We’re not really sure the superblocks are the right place.”

As the superblocks are currently imagined, Clude said, they include tower buildings for university classroom and dormitory space surrounded by open park-like grounds. To add the school building, the university will probably reduce the amount of open space in a neighborhood Clude said is nearly as pressed for park space as it is for kindergarten seats.

“Our children need places to run around, to learn how to ride a bicycle,” she said. “Do you trade that because you also need a place to go to school?”

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