NYU Expansion Plan Opponents Win Top State Court Hearing

Opponents of New York University’s $6 billion expansion plan in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village won a hearing before the state’s highest court in their bid to block the proposal.

The Court of Appeals in Albany on Tuesday agreed to hear arguments in the case after the opponents sought a review of a lower-court ruling from October that allowed the expansion to proceed. That decision found that the city’s approval of the plan was appropriate because the disputed land isn’t park property and doesn’t require consent from the New York Legislature.

“We’re glad that the Court of Appeals agrees that this case is important,” a plan opponent, Andrew Ross, director of NYU’s American Studies program, said in a statement. “These parks have been a vital part of the Greenwich Village community’s daily life for decades.”

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

“This project -- indispensable to meeting NYU’s pressing academic space needs -- was approved 44-1 by the City Council, and was strongly and unanimously upheld by the Appellate Division,” John Beckman, a university spokesman, said in a statement. “We are optimistic about another positive outcome when the Court of Appeals ultimately rules.”

Public Parks

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.”

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

Neighborhood groups, arguing that NYU’s plan would overwhelm a cramped historic area, filed two suits in 2012 to block the expansion. A judge dismissed the first complaint, brought by tenants of a group of high-rise buildings in Greenwich Village. Her March ruling has been appealed and is pending.

In the other case, a lower-court judge ruled in 2013 that portions of the proposed expansion would interfere with the public parks and consequently require approval by the New York legislature, not just city authorities. The school successfully appealed, and that case is now headed to the state’s high court.

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

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