Housing development on Pier 5 allowed

Pier 5. Image Credit: Google Maps

The City authorized Pier 5 on the Harlan River to be development for housing. The City acquired Pier 5 on the Harlem Riven, a 4.4 acre parcel of land in The Bronx, in 2006 during the $60 million renovation of Yankee Stadium and transferred control of the land to the Parks Department. Pier 5 is bounded on the north by Mill Pond Park, on the east by the Major Deegan Expressway, on the south by 149th Street. Parks fenced off Pier 5 and kept it closed for a most of the following ten years. Parks occasionally rented the land to private companies to host carnivals and small events. Between June 2013 and August 2014 Parks allowed the Bronx Council for Environment Quality to collect air quality data and to conduct environmental experiments on Pier 5. The Council permitted members of the public to come on the land for educational and research purposes. Ultimately Parks allowed the Department of Transportation to use Pier 5 for equipment storage.

The City announced that the Pier 5 parcel would be developed into housing. The Bronx Council for Environmental Quality opposed the development and filed an article 78 petition alleging that Pier 5 was dedicated parkland and could not be developed for a nonpark use. The Council argued that the City impliedly made Pier 5 into parkland when the City transferred it to the Parks Department. The Council pointed out signage by the Parks Department that referred to Pier 5 as a park. The Council also cited the research time and the private events as evidence that the area was used as parkland.

Supreme Justice Carol R. Edmead rejected the Council’s petition, ruled in favor of the City and dismiss the article 78 petition. The Council appealed.

The Appellate Division rejected the Council’s arguments and affirmed that the City could use Pier 5 for housing. To convert Pier 5 into dedicated as parkland, the site would have to have been in continuous use as a public park or recreational area. The Appellate Division found that the public’s limited use of Pier 5 was only a small fraction of the land’s use during the time that the City owned the land. The City’s act of transferring the land to Park’s Department’s jurisdiction and the Park’s signage and fencing did convert Pier 5 into dedicated parkland.

Bronx Council For Environmental Quality v. City of New York , 117 A.D.3d 416 (1st Dep’t 2019).

By: Hayden Boudreaux (Hayden is a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2020.)


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