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Judicial Panel Overturns NYU Decision: Court of Appeals Will Be Last Word

On October 14, the First Department Panel of the Appellate Division overturned the January 7th ruling of Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills. That ruling, in a lawsuit filed by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, and a broad coalition of community groups, preservationists, and local elected officials, had found that the City had illegally given away park land to NYU for its massive Village expansion plan. Justice Mills’ ruling was a victory for all who care about our neighborhood and the pres- ervation of much-needed public open space, and effectively blocked much of the NYU plan from moving forward. Citing the “public trust” doctrine, Mills said that much of the land the City ‘gave’ to NYU was, for all intents and purposes “park” land and thus deserved all the protections granted to parkland, including a prohibition on alienation without the approval of the state legislature.

The first department’s ruling was disappointing but not entirely unexpected. We at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation are working with our co- plaintiffs and our lawyers to file an appeal as quickly as possible with the State Court of Appeals, which would have the final say in this matter. We intend to exhaust all reasonable tools at our disposal to fight this massive two million square foot, twentyyear expansion plan which is so unnecessary, which would have such a damaging impact upon our neighborhood, and which is roundly opposed by the affected community, and NYU faculty, staff, and students.

Thousands of our members and supporters wrote to Mayor de Blasio urging him to drop the City’s appeal of the ruling striking down much of the NYU plan. Unfortunately, in spite of this, the Mayor did proceed with his support and defense of the plan, and presumably will continue to do so if the Court of Appeals hears our petition.

The NYU expansion plan was approved in 2012 by the City Council, led by local Councilmember Margaret Chin and then-City Council Speaker Chris- tine Quinn, as well as then-Borough President Scott Stringer and the City Planning Commission. That approval not only gave away public playgrounds, gardens, and park space to NYU, but also overturned deed restrictions meant to limit how formerly-public land given to NYU two generations ago could be used. It eliminated open-space preservation requirements, and it lifted neighborhood zoning protections. All this was done to allow NYU to build a complex of huge buildings which would replace open space and low-rise buildings, as well as creating a cavernous below ground space. One of those “buildings,” the “Zipper” building planned for Mercer Street between Bleecker and Houston Streets would, at one million square feet, be the largest building ever constructed in Greenwich Village. Though technically one building, it would really be six large interlock- ing buildings, hence the term “zipper” coined by the university administration to describe it. In total, NYU’s Village expansion would encompass two million square feet, which would take twenty years to construct and house thousands of students, faculty, and workers.

It is deeply ironic that this recent decision came down just days after it was revealed that the plan will allow space within the planned complex which was supposed to be allotted for a public school, to be taken by NYU and used for their purposes rather than for the school. This means the NYU expansion plan would result in an even greater giveaway of public resources to the university than originally claimed.

For more information on the NYU expansion plan, see http://www.gvshp.org/nyu .

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