Challenge to Javits Center expansion rebuffed

Court finds environmental review for the Hudson Yards sufficient to cover changes to Javits plan. The plan to expand the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center underwent changes since the approval of the final environmental impact statement for the Hudson Yards rezoning plan in 2004. When in July 2006 the Empire State Development Corporation approved the changes without a supplemental EIS, four Hell’s Kitchen residents, the Municipal Art Society and the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association challenged the decision in an article 78 petition, arguing that the changes were significant and required a supplemental EIS.

The residents cited changes in the plan, which called for the private development of a 46-story office building, two residential towers of 50 and 45 stories, and a 500- car parking garage to replace the original plan for a full-block park bounded by Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues and West 33rd and West 34th Streets. The new plan would also change the location of the hotel proposed for Javits from Eleventh Avenue and West 41st Street, to Eleventh and West 35th, and moved the Javits truck loading facility from West 34th Street to locations along West 39th and West 40th. Instead of the original underground facility, the new proposal called for a multilevel, above-ground truck loading dock. The residents submitted evidence showing that the changes would cause significant traffic impacts, potentially increase air pollutants and impact neighborhood design and open space.

The Empire State Development Corporation and the Convention Center Operating Corporation responded that the project changes would not generate additional adverse impacts above those already covered by the Hudson Yards study.

Justice Michael Stallman agreed, adding that a project change alone does not trigger the need for a supplemental environmental study. The court cited the traffic mitigation measures of the original Hudson Yards plan, finding that, as a practical matter, the measures could be adapted to the new Javits plan. Since the parties’ experts disagreed on the level of air studies needed, the court would not resolve the dispute. The residents failed to identify any new potential impacts to urban design. The court added that elimination of a proposed park does not reflect a change from current conditions.

Municipal Art Society v. N.Y.S. Convention Center Development Corp., 2007 N.Y. Slip Op. 51031(U) (N.Y. Cty.Sup.Ct. May 21, 2007) (Stallman, J.).

CITYLAND Comment: The residents, the Municipal Art Society and the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association have not yet decided whether or not they will appeal.

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