NYU to Appeal Ruling Blocking Campus Expansion Plan

New York University said it’s appealing a state court ruling that blocked part of its planned expansion in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

Justice Donna M. Mills of state Supreme Court in Manhattan ruled on Dec. 7 that portions of the proposed 2-million-square-foot (186,000 square meter) expansion would interfere with public parks and consequently require approval by the state legislature, not just city authorities.

NYU filed a notice of appeal on Jan. 13, said John Beckman, a spokesman for the university. The decision was favorable to the school’s arguments in many ways, as it upheld the city’s approvals of the proposed plans, dismissed five of the six claims made in a lawsuit filed by opponents, and placed no legal impediment on starting one part of the expansion, Beckman said. The filing couldn’t immediately be confirmed in court records.

“It is important to understand that what will ultimately be built -- within the envelope granted by the city and in accordance with the outcome of the legal proceedings -- will be guided by” a university working group’s final recommendations that are expected in the next few weeks, Beckman said in an e-mail.

No-Confidence Vote

NYU’s intended expansion, known as the Sexton Plan after university President John Sexton, is a $6 billion project, according to court filings. It’s opposed by dozens of the university’s 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.

Beckman said after last week’s ruling that the decision allows the school to move forward with part of the project that would replace an existing gym with a multitower structure called the Zipper Building. Opponents said moving forward with any part of the plan would violate the judge’s order.

“It is unsurprising that NYU would seek to appeal this loss, blocking its massive expansive project from going forward, but the Greenwich Village community won this case for compelling reasons that we are confident will be affirmed on any appeal,” Randy Mastro, a lawyer representing opponents of the project, said in an e-mail.

More Space

NYU, one of the largest private nonprofit universities in the U.S. by enrollment, said it needs more space to accommodate a student body that grew by 25 percent from 1990 to 2005 and is projected to increase as much as 0.5 percent annually for the next 25 years, according to Mills’s ruling.

Neighborhood groups, arguing that the plan would overwhelm a cramped historic area, filed two suits in 2012 to block the expansion. State Supreme Court Justice Ellen M. Coin dismissed the first complaint, brought by tenants of a group of high-rise buildings in Greenwich Village. Her March ruling has been appealed.

As originally proposed, the project included 2.4 million gross square feet of development that would take place over about 20 years. A modified version approved by the New York City Council would total 1.9 million square feet of new buildings on two areas described as “superblocks,” according to the ruling.

One of the superblocks encompasses Mercer Playground and LaGuardia Park, both deemed public parks by Mills. The other, where the university’s Jerome S. Coles Sports & Recreation Center is located, has one park, LaGuardia Corner Gardens, and a membership-based dog run, which the judge found didn’t qualify as a public park.

The cases are Weinstein v. Harvey, 103844-2012, and WSV Green Neighbors Inc. v. New York University, 15550-2012, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).

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