The opposition to NYU's current plan to build on its own campus works well for Community District 2, but not so well for the East Village and the Lower East Side. Most of Community District 2 is landmarked by varioius historic district designations and can't be developed, so if NYU's plan is defeated, NYU can't then turn to other sites around the campus to build. But they could build in Community District 3, the Lower East Side, the East Village and the Bowery, even in Chinatown. Although the recent EV/LES rezoning limits development in much of the area, the Bowery is open, and there are generous bulk allowances on Houston Street, Avenue D and Chrystie Street.
The opposition to the NYU plan points out that the financial district, Community District 1, would welcome NYU development. But no one has identified any specific sites, and no money or incentives have been offered.
To prevent NYU development in Community District 3, there must be more than just vague gestures towards the financial district. Community District 3 leadership has got to go up the ladder of authority and broker a deal with Albany -- the state legislature gives large sums for private universities, so the legislature has some leverage already, and the state can offer all kinds of incentives as well. That goes for the city too, in the form of real estate tax breaks.
Defeating NYU's plan won't curtail NYU's growth. NYU, unlike Columbia, doesn't have a huge endowment. It relies on tuition. In order to maintain the quality of its faculty and its research facilities, they draw an increasing student tuition base. So opposing any particular NYU plan is futile. It's setting a cat for every mousehole or pressing on every bubble only to watch it pop up nearby. The only solution to NYU is finding a solution for NYU.
Having said all that, I find the railing against NYU surprising. Hasn't NYU already transformed the commercial character and the residential demographic of the EV? Is there anything left to lose to NYU? NYU has already wrought its worst on real estate values and rents. What is the complaint against them? They are, on the whole, much more agreeable than the yuppies. They party less and they have more intellectual curiosity. What are East Villagers protecting? Look around. Even the hipsters are gone.
There remains in the LES some affordable housing. That's the only piece of the community worth fighting for. Beyond that, there's only landmarking, and landmarking is just memorializing the past, not the present of the community. It's the museum of the LES.