Court upholds City’s approval of Columbia’s plan

Mini-storage owners unsuccessfully challenged FEIS. Columbia University proposed an expansion plan that would allow it to construct a new 17- acre campus in the Manhattanville neighborhood of West Harlem. The plan would create academic building space, university housing, as well as a contiguous below-grade facility, or “bathtub,” to support campus functions. After the City Planning Commission determined that Columbia’s plan might have a significant impact on the environment, Columbia prepared a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) which concluded that Columbia’s plan, as modified during the review process, would not result in any adverse impacts not already identified in the FEIS. The City adopted the FEIS’s findings, and a modified version of Columbia’s plan was ultimately approved by the City Council, as was Manhattan Community Board 9’s alternative development plan for West Harlem. 5 CityLand 3 (Feb. 15, 2008).

Tuck-It-Away Associates, a business in the proposed development area, challenged the City’s adoption of the FEIS’s findings. Tuck- It-Away claimed that the City failed to take the required “hard look” at the potential environmental impacts of the bathtub, and failed to adequately consider CB9’s plan. Tuck-It-Away also asserted that the City unlawfully segmented the environmental review process by postponing the review of some outstanding issues relating to the maintenance and construction of the bathtub to an unspecified future date.

Justice Jane S. Solomon denied Tuck-It-Away’s petition, ruling that the City had taken a “hard enough look” at the potential impacts of the bathtub given the plan’s comprehensive treatment, and found that its FEIS determination was rational. The court also ruled that the City did not improperly segment the environmental review, noting that the FEIS determined that sufficient studies were conducted on the bathtub to assess potential flooding issues. The court also noted that a future probabilistic risk-based analysis did not amount to unlawful segmentation. In addressing Tuck-It-Away’s claim that the City failed to adequately consider CB9’s alternative development plan, Solomon determined that there was no evidence that the City irrationally rejected the alternative plan, as it was specifically addressed in the FEIS.

Tuck-It-Away Assoc., LP v.New York City, Index No. 104415/08 (N.Y. Cty.Sup.Ct Sept. 24, 2008) (Solomon, J.) (Attorneys: Silverberg Zalanthis LLP, for Tuck-It- Away; Michael A. Cardozo, Amanda Goad, Susan Amron, for NYC.)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.