Townies vs. Gownies

Next American City reported today on the conflicts between locals in Greenwich Village and NYU. Evidently, the university wants to expand, but the locals fear the school is swallowing up their neighborhood. The entire ordeal represents a “clash of world views” that touches on the unique character of the neighborhood, zoning, property rights, and property values.

And as it just so happens, those are exactly the same issues that come up over and over again in Provo. Most recently, they’ve been raised during the discussion regarding the LDS Church’s MTC expansion — which is technically part of BYU — as well as the transition from single family homes to privately operated student apartments. In fact, these issues are probably at least as big a part of the discourse in Provo as they are in New York because BYU dominates its city in a way that a single school in Manhattan cannot.

But in any case, the article includes some relevant insights. For example, it notes that despite opposition, the university’s expansion was probably inevitable due to property ownership and other issues.

Perhaps more importantly, the clash between the school and the surrounding residents has provided an opportunity for local leaders to get involved:

To the [city] council’s credit, they used this as an opportunity to influence the content and scale of the expansion.

Moreover, the planning, in vacuum, is not so bad. It includes three acres of green space. An independent body, financed through the university, will manage maintenance. Furthermore, building vertically is fundamental to sustainable cities.

That’s a particularly important point for Provo: city leaders didn’t just give NYU a pass — even though the school is important to the local economy — they got involved with the process and helped temper the project with citizen concerns. That’s exactly what city leaders should do, but what seemingly doesn’t happen often enough in Provo where BYU (again, seemingly) gets to do whatever it wants all the time.

Maybe that perception is incorrect — I’m not a part of BYU’s planning discussions, after all — but it is widespread and often creates resentment. The MTC expansion is just the most recent example of that phenomenon.

In any case this article helps reveal that conflicts between schools and surrounding communities are common, but that there is the possibility of compromise.

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Filed under BYU, Provo

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