New York University faculty and neighborhood organizations sued New York City for approving a university plan to expand in Greenwich Village.
Land-use violations overlooked in the plan include illegal manipulation of restrictive deeds, destruction of parkland and playgrounds and failure to adequately consider the environmental impact, according to a filing yesterday in state court in Manhattan.
NYU’s intended expansion, known as the Sexton Plan after the university’s president, John Sexton, is a $6 billion project comprising almost 2 million square feet, according to the court filing.
“The City Planning Commission 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,” Mark Crispin Miller, an NYU professor of media and culture, said in a statement. “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.”
The plaintiffs seek a court order to stop the project from continuing. New York University is named as a third party in the lawsuit.
“The expansion plan, which enables NYU to add much-needed academic facilities and housing, is lawful and followed all applicable processes,” the New York City Law Department said in an e-mailed statement.
“It was approved by both the City Council and the City Planning Commission after substantial and thorough public review,” according to the statement. “We are confident it will be upheld. We are reviewing the claims and will respond appropriately.”
The NYU faculty said in the complaint that about half of the development is slated for “non-academic purposes,” such as a performing arts center, a gymnasium, housing and retail establishments.
NYU obtained permission from the city to rezone two square blocks that originally were created from public land using federal funds for urban renewal, according to the lawsuit.
The blocks now house five apartment buildings with about 4,500 residents, including NYU faculty members and people with low incomes, according to the complaint. The blocks are bounded by West 3rd Street on the north, Houston Street on the south, Mercer Street on the east and LaGuardia Place on the west.
“The residents will literally be forced to live on a construction site for the next 20 years,” the suit states.
In August, tenants of rent-stabilized apartments at Washington Square Village sued NYU in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. The tenants sought a court order to stop the university from taking action to eliminate a two-acre park and a commercial strip and garden on the project site.
The case is Weinstein v. Harvey, 103844-2012, State Supreme Court of New York (Manhattan).