NEW YORK — Plans to expand the New York University campus in Greenwich Village are running into resistance from local residents, who say it would destroy a historic section of Manhattan.

A local coalition that includes 50 area business owners is demanding that the university modify plans that would add 2.4 million square feet of academic and residential space to the campus.

"NYU's current plans would do more harm than good for the community," said Judy Paul, president of the Washington Square Hotel, in a statement sent to AFP on behalf of a group named "Villagers for a Sustainable Neighborhood."

Greenwich Village is known for the artistic and bohemian lifestyle and its picturesque old row houses, which sharply contrast with the dizzying heights of nearby New York skyscrapers.

The "Village," as residents call it, is home to the main campus of NYU, founded in 1931. NYU has some 40,000 students, one of the largest student populations of any private US university.

NYU also has some 16,000 people on its payroll, making it one of the city's largest employers, according to its website.

The development plan calls for building skyscrapers on two large city blocks south of Washington Square. These buildings would include classrooms and offices for professors, as well as academic housing, a hotel and retail shops.

"NYU needs to secure the space it requires in order to stay relevant and rigorous and to allow academic excellence to flourish," the university said in a statement.

The expansion plan "will create an estimated 18,200 new construction jobs, as well as 2,600 long-term employment opportunities, and will generate an estimated $6 billion in construction spending," the statement said.

The neighborhood coalition is not completely opposed to the plan, but says it needs to be modified to "reduce the density and height of the buildings," "protect and improve public open spaces" and "provide infrastructure improvements."

"We believe that NYU can meet its need for growth in the future while still respecting the existing scale of Greenwich Village," read a Villagers for a Sustainable Neighborhood press release.

Greenwich Village already has one of the lowest percentages of open space in Manhattan, and the NYU project would adversely affect three of them, the neighborhood coalition said.

In a recent vote, a neighborhood council unanimously urged city officials to reject the NYU project.

The New York City Planning Department, which has approved the project, is expected to review the plan again. The plan is also being reviewed by Manhattan's borough president.

In order to proceed, the plan would also require approval from the New York city council.