Category – bloomberg.com/
By – Christie Smythe
Category – Matthews Bark
New York University was blocked by a state judge from beginning much of a 2 million-square-foot expansion in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood.
State Supreme Court Justice Donna M. Mills in Manhattan ruled yesterday that portions of the plan would interfere with public parks, a result which would require approval by the state legislature.
“The court concludes that the public trust doctrine applies to three of the four parcels of land involved,” Mills wrote, referring to the parks. If NYU is unable to obtain legislative approval, “it will, at the very least, have to develop alternative areas for construction staging that will not interfere with the use by the public,” the judge said.
NYU, one of the largest private, nonprofit universities in the U.S. by enrollment, says it needs more academic and housing space to accommodate its growing student body. Neighborhood groups, arguing that the plan would overwhelm a cramped historic area, sued the city in September 2012 over its approval of the expansion.
“This is a huge victory for the Greenwich Village community, preserving this historic neighborhood and protecting its precious parkland,” said Randy Mastro, an attorney representing opponents of the project and a deputy mayor under former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
John Beckman, a spokesman for NYU, said the ruling still allows the university to start part of the project in which it would replace an existing gym with 980,000 square feet of new space.
Mastro called that notion “delusional,” saying the plan had been approved by the city as a comprehensive project and would need to be resubmitted.
“Any such piecemeal approach would constitute a new project materially different from that previously approved by the city and requiring its own separate environmental review process,” he said. “So NYU has to go back to square one.”
Beckman said in a statement that the university disagrees with the assertion that the plan must be resubmitted.
City officials are reviewing the decision, Christopher Reo, a lawyer for the city, said in a statement.
NYU’s intended expansion, known as the Sexton Plan after university president John Sexton, is a $6 billion project comprising almost 2 million square feet, according to a court filing on behalf of opponents. The expansion is opposed by dozens of university departments and divisions. Professors in the university’s largest school passed a vote of no-confidence in Sexton on March 16, saying he failed to consult with them on the plan.
At a hearing in the case in July, more than 100 people packed the courtroom including Padma Lakshmi, co-host of the television show “Top Chef,” who said in an interview afterward that she lives in the neighborhood and attended the hearing as a “concerned mother.”
The city’s law department said previously in a statement that the plan would bring a “pedestrian-friendly mix of public open spaces and academic, residential and retail use.”
Beckman said in a statement yesterday that the decision “reaffirms” the city’s approval of the plan. Five of six legal claims asserted in the case by the project’s opponents were dismissed by the judge, he said.
“This is a complex ruling, but the judgment is a very positive one for NYU,” he said. After further analysis of the ruling, the university will “work with the city, as lead respondent, to determine our next legal steps,” he said.
The case is Weinstein v. Harvey, 103844-2012, State Supreme Court of New York (Manhattan).
Source – bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-07/new-york-university-expansion-plan-blocked-by-judge.html