New York State Court of Appeals Permits NYU Expansion Plan

NYU superblock development as originally proposed. Image credit: NYU.

NYU superblock development as originally proposed. Image credit: NYU.

Court found no implied dedication of target parcels as parkland.  In 2012, the City Council approved a plan by New York University to develop two “superblocks” bounded by West 3rd Street, Houston Street, Mercer Street, and LaGuardia Place in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan as part of an expansion plan for the campus.  Assemblymember Deborah Glick, joined by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the Historic Districts Council, and other local community groups challenged the approval in court arguing the Council’s approval improperly granted four community parks to NYU for the expansion in violation of the public trust doctrine.

On January 7, 2014, Justice Donna M. Mills of New York County Supreme Court partially enjoined the development, holding that four parcels of land to be developed as part of the expansion were parkland under the public trust doctrine. Justice Mills ruled the development could go forward but only with consent of the State Legislature, as their approval is necessary for the use of any parkland for non-park purposes.  NYU appealed, and on October 14, 2014 the First Department’s Appellate Division overturned the lower court’s ruling, finding the parcels’ use as parkland was temporary and provisional while prior efforts to have the property officially designated as parkland were rejected by the City.  Assemblymember Glick and the community groups appealed to the State Court of Appeals.

On June 30, 2015 the Court of Appeals ruled 7-0 in favor of NYU.  In its ruling, the Court agreed with the Appellate Division’s ruling that the City had no intent to dedicate the parcels as parkland, and the parcels’ use as parkland since the 1950s did not constitute an implied dedication or otherwise change the legal status of the plots.

In a statement to CityLand, GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman expressed disappointment over the Court’s ruling, arguing it “will not only have a devastating impact upon the (Greenwich) Village, but it weakens the legal protections that all New Yorkers have enjoyed for their public park space.” HDC Executive Director Simeon Bankoff also expressed disappointment in the ruling in a statement to CityLand and continues to oppose NYU’s plans.  “Regardless of its legal status, we continue to feel strongly that the NYU expansion plan is wrong for the neighborhood.”

Glick v. Harvey, No. 107, 2015 WL 3948188 (N.Y. June 30, 2015) (Attorneys:  Caitlin J. Halligan, for Glick; Michael J. Pastor, for the City; Seth P. Waxman, for New York University).

By:  Michael Twomey (Michael is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2014).

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