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NYU is looking up — in the form of a Downtown Brooklyn tower

As part of a bold new Brooklyn campus, New York University is talking about building a 41-story tower on Jay Street near Myrtle Avenue — a striking proposal that would radically change the face of Downtown.

But after the elite private institution released its rendering of a skyline-dominating L-shaped tower, school officials offered the classic, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” routine, saying that the rendering isn’t a proposal, but merely a “visualization exercise” of what NYU could legally build next to its Polytechnic University affiliate on Jay Street.

“[The rendering] is an illustration of the possible massing that is available,” said NYU spokesman John Beckman. He called the proposal a “massing illustration” rather than a “rendering,” and was quick to add, “It’s not what we’re proposing. We’re not saying that’s what we want to have happen.”

That said, Beckman did not provide a rendering of what he says that the school wants to do.

Overall, Beckman’s linguistic acrobatics are odd, considering that the Manhattan-based college presented the skyscraper as part of its larger citywide growth plan, which calls for expansions of NYU’s presence in Manhattan and Brooklyn (see page 223 of this document).

According to that plan, the bottom 28 floors of the proposed tower would house academic facilities. The remaining portion, the lucrative top floors, would be set aside for non-university offices, presumably for an outside company that would be keen to occupy a prominent workspace with glorious views of Manhattan.

NYU can build such a structure because it has acquired air-rights from neighboring buildings, including its Polytechnic University affiliate. But the school has said that it would rather cut up those air rights and build smaller buildings in an around the Metrotech office complex.

“Existing ‘as-of-right’ massing may not be the most desirable for academic uses,” said NYU spokeswoman Alicia Hurley.

As such, the proposal to build a tower is merely a negotiating ploy to get permission to build several smaller buildings, which would require city approvals that the lone tower would not.

“We would likely pursue city approvals to re-situate and spread the massing in a way that is more conducive to academic priorities,” she said.

The notion of a broader NYU campus seems in line with the university’s statement that it would not only be expanding in the sciences at its Polytech affiliate, but also into the performing arts and other fields.

Previously, Hurley had said NYU will look at a combination of academic, administrative and student housing in Downtown.

Both Hurley and a spokeswoman for Polytech said the immediate future would involve upgrades to current facilities.

The plan also calls for a much-less striking addition to a Polytech dormitory at Lawrence and Johnson streets.

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