- Dean John Sexton New York University Law School 40 Washington Square South New York, NY 10012
24 January 2002
Dear Dean Sexton:
My name is Cindy Rosenthal. I am an NYU alumna (PhD, Performance Studies, 1997), I write on theatre and performance in New York City, and I'm a full-time Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies at Hofstra University. I'm currently finishing an article for TDR, in which I analyze the creative process and the efficacy of a community-based performance, common green/common ground, which was presented outdoors in three boroughs last spring and was produced by garden activists in collaboration with Tisch School of the Arts faculty and students. The motivation behind creating this moving, music, theatre, and dance work with a multigenerational cast of 39 was to tell gardeners' stories and to raise awareness about urban open space and garden preservation issues. The goal was to enlighten audiences through art and ultimately, hopefully, to effect concrete policy change.
At this point, it is clear that the production did not effect policy change, nor did it save a garden. One clear accomplishment of the project, however, was community building. Connections were strengthened and/or forged, not only between the NYU artists (students and faculty) and local gardeners and activists in NYU's "home" East Village neighborhood, but with community gardeners across the city. During the rehearsal and performance process and in the nine months that followed, students, faculty, and administrators voiced the opinion that NYU needs to change how it deals with the community. Deans and Tisch undergraduates alike have stated that in the post-September 11 climate downtown it is even more essential that NYU respond to the needs of its neighborhood community when making decisions that impact the community (such as real estate development, which is essential to a growing, thriving institution of higher learning such as NYU). The hope is that the old "top-down" approach will be re-visioned in this new era with a new mayor and a new president of NYU.
For this last phase of my research and writing, I would be interested in your views on NYU's role in the community. For instance, What is your response to community-based planning? In light of the East Village's limited open and green space and the challenge of "saving" existing neighborhood gardens, what do you see as NYU's responsibility with regard to an urban environmental ethic in its decision-making process in the future? Finally, because of NYU's past, present, and future expansion and development, do you feel a special fund that would support community gardens in the East Village ought to be created by NYU to provide money for site development, maintenance, and programming?
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Cindy Rosenthal, PhD
Assistant Professor, Theatre Studies
Hofstra University [End Page 160]