Rendering of proposed $ 6 billion NYU Greenwich Village expansion as envisioned when completed in 2031. On Monday eleven groups and Eleven individuals sued NYU, the City and State officers and agencies for approving the NYU’s 2031 expansion plan, known as the Sexton Plan. The suit was filed in New York County State Supreme Court. The suit asserts among other things that NYU's massive plan, "illegally alienates parkland, illegally destroys historic resources, illegally ignores deed restrictions."
The suit asks the court to reverse the city’s approval. The City Council rubber stamped the project in July.
"The city and state made a series of erroneous and irrational decisions to overhaul local zoning, alienate public parkland, and green-light NYU's project, despite the unanimous objection of the local Community Board, the affected communities, historic preservationists, and much of NYU's own faculty," said Randy Mastro, partner of the law firm Gibson Dunn and Crutcher, who represents the petitioners on a pro bono basis, in a statement.
Eleven Groups File Suit Against City for Illegally Approving NYU Sexton Expansion Plan for Greenwich Village;
Today, NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Historic Districts Council, Washington Square Village Tenants’ Association, East Village Community Coalition, Friends of Petrosino Square, LaGuardia Corner Gardens, Inc., Lower Manhattan Neighbors Organization, SoHo Alliance, Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, NoHo Neighborhood Association, and 11 individuals, announced that they filed an Article 78 lawsuit against several City and State officers and agencies for their unlawful approval of NYU’s 2031 expansion plan, known as the Sexton Plan. The suit was filed in New York County State Supreme Court.
The case challenges decisions by the City and the State to approve the massive Sexton Plan, a $6 billion, almost two million square foot construction plan in the heart of historic Greenwich Village, for the convenience of NYU. The petition alleges that the plan illegally alienates parkland, illegally destroys historic resources, illegally ignores deed restrictions, and, as government decision-makers readily admit, is going to cause severe, unmitigated environmental impacts on NYU’s Village neighbors, including the several thousand who reside at the site and will now be forced to live in a construction zone for the next two decades.
The lawsuit alleges that government decision-makers, including both the City Planning Commission and the NYC Council, largely deferred to NYU’s wishes and even illegally turned over public land to facilitate NYU’s project, despite less intrusive alternatives and available mitigation measures that would have alleviated the inevitable hardships here. The petition also claims that government decision-makers compounded their substantive errors by conducting a decision-making process with a preordained outcome that lacked the transparency required by law under ULURP and effectively denied the public meaningful input. The government decision-makers refused even to consider the adverse impacts on the most affected group—the NYU faculty, 40 percent of whom reside at the site—rendering their ultimate decisions irrational, and arbitrary and capricious, as a matter of law.
Thirty-seven NYU departments and three NYU schools, including the Stern School of Business, have passed resolutions opposing the project.
“The CPC and the City Council bought NYU’s premise that they needed to expand in its core in the Village community in order to become a so-called world class university. But the fact is that NYU uses buildings all over NYC. NYU was never required by the City to prove that the expansion was really needed in the Village. We, the faculty, know that this bloated expansion isn’t necessary and that’s why so many of us have voted to oppose it. The Sexton Plan has nothing to do with education; it’s a land grab and nothing more, and the City failed to hold NYU accountable,” said Mark Crispin Miller, NYU Professor of Media and Culture and a member of NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan.
NYU’s enormous project will add almost two million square feet of new space—about half of it dedicated to such nonacademic purposes as a performing arts center, gymnasium, housing and retail establishments—to a two square block area in an already-congested Greenwich Village. It is, as the petition notes, “a project so massive in scale, disproportionate to the surrounding area, and out-of-sync with the neighborhood that it threatens to overwhelm one of New York City’s crown jewels, historic Greenwich Village.”
“The City and State made a series of erroneous and irrational decisions to overhaul local zoning, alienate public parkland, and green-light NYU’s project, despite the unanimous objection of the local Community Board, the affected communities, historic preservationists, and much of NYU’s own faculty. Indeed, in bending over backwards to accommodate NYU’s wishes, these government decision-makers have abrogated their legal responsibility to protect communities from the very harms being inflicted here. We hope that the Court will agree with us and put a stop to this project,” said Randy Mastro, partner in the international law firm Gibson Dunn and Crutcher, who are representing the petitioners on a pro bono basis.
In essence, the suit asks the Court to reverse the City’s approval by enjoining the City from removing parkland or making any other changes asked for by the Sexton Plan and by also enjoining NYU from starting any construction.
The approved Sexton Plan would destroy a number of the Village’s cherished green spaces, and parkland, including a children’s playground, one of the oldest community gardens in the City and would remove 300 irreplaceable mature trees. Under the law, public parkland cannot be “alienated” without prior approval by the State legislature.
“In approving the NYU 2031 plan, the City failed to follow the law, consider public input, and serve the best interests of the people of New York City. Dire negative potential environmental and financial impacts of the plan were ignored, as were feasible alternatives which would have been greener and more beneficial long-term to the Village, the City as a whole, and even the University. We look forward to a fair and impartial review of this plan, which the people of the City of New York were entitled to under the law, but which was not given to us by City officials during the public approval process,” said Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.
“If NYU is allowed to build on the designed open space of Washington Square Village, it would set a damaging precedent for modern architectural development throughout New York City,” said Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council. “Removing the park from the plan corrupts the progressive ideals of the complex and transforms an urban oasis into a concrete jungle,” he added.
“The NYU plan will alter the ambiance of SoHo in the small streets that are the heart of the cast iron historic district, said Robert Riccobono, vice president of SoHo Alliance. “Dignified and stylish furniture and clothing stores will give way to the mass market drugstores and food shops that serve college communities. As the neighborhood becomes homogenized, more of the unique character of the City will suffer.”
Stamped copies of the full petition, excerpts from the petition and affidavits in support of the petition are available upon request.
Additional quotes from petitioners:
“The massive height, bulk and density of the Sexton Plan will have a detrimental effect on the surrounding communities. As a result of the growing influx of NYU students, the Bowery has experienced growing dormitory construction, escalation of real estate values creating secondary displacement of residents and small businesses and a burgeoning bar/restaurant scene with its attendant congestion that is having a negative impact on the quality of life of the residents on the Bowery. The Sexton Plan will encourage more development which will destroy the special historic build on the Bowery,” said Jean Standish, Treasurer of Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, one of the petitioners.
“We live in one of the most park-starved neighborhoods in New York City, one that has become unbearably overdeveloped and overcrowded. The green open spaces in the “Super Blocks,” the community garden, the mature deciduous trees, especially the magnificent Sasaki Garden, are refuges of tranquility we cannot live without,” said Georgette Fleischer, Founder and President of Friends of Petrosino Square.
“The Sexton Plan gives NYU permission to demolish LaGuardia Corner Garden, the longest running community garden in New York City, during construction. The City Council and the New York City Parks Department did not secure the garden’s future with any preservation or mitigation guarantees. This administration has rolled back protections that community garden organizations have worked for decade to establish, resulting in the senseless demolition of these environmentally valuable open spaces,” said Ellen Horan, Vice Chair of LaGuardia Corner Gardens.
“LMNO(P) spent nearly a decade to create a public playground under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department with the understanding that this public space on City-owned land would exist for future generations. Giving NYU these publicly owned lands is a betrayal of the public interest, and slaps the many citizen volunteers who have dedicated years of hours to improve our communities,” said Enid Braun, President, Lower Manhattan Neighbors’ Organization.
“The massive expansion of facilities and student population at the core will amplify pressures that NYU's insatiable demand for growth has placed on housing and on local businesses in the East Village for more than a decade,” said Sara Romanoski, Managing Director, East Village Community Coalition.
The Associated Press Via The New York Times - September 25, 2012
Crains New York - September 25, 2012- By Amanda Fung
NY Observer - September 25, 2012 - By Matt Chaban
NYU, City, State Sued Over NYU's Giant 2031 Expansion Plan
gothamist - September 25, 2012 - By Garth Johnston
New York Times - July 25, 2012 - By Joseph Berger
A Walk In The Park - January 28, 2012
A Walk In The Park - September 17, 2011
A Walk In The Park - November 1, 2010