Tuesday, February 26, 2013

NYU/City In Court Over Attempted Illegal Parkland Swipe

Judge Grants Expedited Discovery Against NYU and City In Attempted Park Land Grab Case

NYU 2031 Plan
NYU 2031 Massive Two Million Square Foot $ 6 Billion Expansion Project.  The plaintiff's lawsuit contends that the Bloomberg administration gave NYU rights over public parkland, in violation of state law, which requires, under the Public Trust Doctrine, that parkland cannot be given away without the approval of the State Legislature.


By Geoffrey Croft

A Manhattan State Supreme Court judge this afternoon granted an expedited discovery motion request in favor of plaintiffs suing NYU and City in an attempted park land grab case which has erupted in the West Village.

At issue is whether or not NYU can proceed in building its massive two million square foot expansion project without first getting State Alienation approval to remove 4 parks - some of which have been used for more than three decades - in order to build its enormous NYU 2031 project.   

The suit contends that the Bloomberg administration gave NYU rights over public parkland, in violation of state law, which requires, under the Public Trust Doctrine, that parkland cannot be given away without the approval of the State Legislature.

The City and NYU are attempting to argue that because the four parks in question were never officially, "mapped" they are in fact not legal parkland and as a result they do not require State Alienation approval.

Former NYC Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro presented the plaintiff's argument before the Honorable Donna Mills at 111 centre street this afternoon. 

Mr. Mastro argued that the parkland had been used for decades and the absence of official mapping does not afford the parks any less legal rights for protection under state law. 

"You can't take that precious parkland away without prior State approval under state law,"  he said.

He said they needed this discovery based on "misrepresentations by the City and NYU."

More than a 100 people attended today's hearing - many of which wore stickers distributed by Andrew Berman, Executive Director of Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

The City, represented by Christopher Reo stated that because the four parks were never de-mapped from the Department of Transportation they were not parks in the legal sense no matter how long they have been used as parkland.

This is position that is not consistent with other park and open space policies stated by the Bloomberg administration.   

In September lawyers filed suit in Manhattan State Supreme Court on behalf of 11 Greenwich Village groups trying to stop NYU's city-approved expansion.     

On Friday plaintiffs filed a blistering affidavit from former NYC Parks Commissioner Henry Stern which called out NYU's and the Bloomberg Administration's contention that four parcels of parkland are not actually City parks.  

The four parks involved with the proposed NYU expansion-Mercer Playground, LaGuardia Park, LaGuardia Corner Gardens,  and Mercer-Houston Dog Run range from 13 to more than 32 years of continuous public use.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick also wrote an affidavit supporting the contention that the City’s approval of the NYU expansion plan amounted to an illegal giveaway of public parkland and that any move to turn City parkland over to a private entity, like NYU, must have the approval of the State legislature under the Public Trust Doctrine.

Actor Matthew Broderick speaks with reporters after the hearing.

Actor Matthew Broderick was among more than 100 people who attended today's hearing many of which wore stickers saying, PLEASE SAVE OUR PARKS. 

"This issue is personal. I live in the village, I use the parks," Broderick, a life-long Greenwich Village resident said after the hearing. 

"It's not just my children.  I grew up on Washington Square and NYU is taking up more and more."

Matthew Broderick testified at the NYU expansion hearings at City Hall on June 29, 2012.  

"Parks they make the city livable, It's hard enough. There's only one Greenwich Village, its great if any parkland is preserved."

Broderick was accompanied by fellow Village native and parent Kenneth Lonergan, a noted playwright and screenwriter, and New York University alumni.

"The university doesn't own Greenwich Village, and the part they do own they're destroying. And it's not for the students, it's for money," Lonergan said.  

Both Broderick and Lonergan noted the dearth of available parkland in the community. 

The case contests the City Planning Commission's and the City Council's decision to approve a massive building plan by NYU, which would radically impact the area-  turning the heart of Greenwich Village into a jam-packed construction site for over 20 years, The plan would also permanently destroy two of the four parks. 

Various groups, including NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (NYUFASP), the Historic Districts Council, and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, filed suit because the approved construction plan, among many other illegalities, gave NYU rights over public parkland.

At the end of the hour hearing Alan Levine argued strenuously on behalf of NYU to no avail.

Judge Mills signed an order show cause granting the plaintiffs permission to argue for discovery before the April 29th hearing.

“We are deeply gratified by the judge’s ruling today," said Andrew Berman Executive Director Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

"It’s only one small step, but an important one towards ensuring that New Yorker’s parks, light and air, and control over the fate of their communities are preserved, and not simply sold off to the highest or most politically well-connected bidder.”   

Besides Mr. Mastro plaintiffs are also represented by Jim Walden, both partners of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

Read More:

New York Daily News - February 26, 2013 - By Barbara Ross 

NYU gotta be kidding! Matthew Broderick rips $6B expansion
New York Post -  By Julia March February 27, 2013

NYU Local - By ZoĆ« Schlanger  February 26, 2013 

DNAinfo - February 26, 2013 - By Andrea Swalec

No comments:

Post a Comment