NYU East 12th Street dorm construction can proceed

Construction work can continue on new 26-story NYU dorm, which will incorporate the front tower of St. Ann’s Church. Photo:Morgan Kunz.

Court denied request to stop construction while residents file BSA appeal. East Village residents sought an injunction to stop construction of a 26-story dormitory for New York University on an East 12th Street site occupied by the vacant and partially demolished St. Ann’s Catholic Church.

Hudson 12th Development LLC purchased 120 East 12th Street, located mid-block between Third and Fourth Avenues, from the Catholic Church in 2005. It proceeded, under an agreement with the United States Postal Service, to merge the lot with a lot at 93 Fourth Avenue, occupied by the two-story Cooper Station Post Office. This would allow Hudson to count both lots into the calculation of the permitted size of the NYU dorm development on the St. Ann’s site. No new development would occur at the post office site. Hudson then received permits from Buildings to demolish most of St. Ann’s Church and construct a 26-story dormitory for NYU that would use the St. Ann’s spire at its entrance gate. Work began in July 2006.

East Village residents and community groups filed an injunction request, seeking an immediate halt to all work while they appealed the permit to BSA. The residents claimed that if construction continued during the BSA appeal, Hudson would complete a substantial amount of construction, incurring huge costs, making a court reticent to grant a judgment requiring Hudson to dismantle the work.

The residents’ complaint alleged that the lot merger with the Cooper Station post office was illegal since the U.S. Postal Service, as a federal agency, was exempt from local zoning laws. Even though Hudson used all but 70 sq.ft. of Cooper Station’s unused development rights, the residents argued that the merger would not restrain the Postal Service from demolishing the post office and developing a second high-rise building. Residents claimed that the 26-story “mega-dorm” would be 100 feet taller than neighboring East Village buildings, dominating the area, compromising the area’s historic districts and negatively impacting several apartments’ light and air.

Justice Edward H. Lehner denied the request, ruling that the court lacked the power to grant an injunction when there was a pending BSA proceeding. Lehner ruled that the residents must first receive a decision from BSA. The court noted that it seemed unlikely that the residents’ claim would be successful since the residents admitted that if the post office lot was owned by a private party, the residents would have no claim at all.

St. Ann’s Comm. v. Hudson 12th Develop., N.Y.L.J., Sept. 26, 2002, at 22 (N.Y.Cty.Sup.Ct.) (Lehner, J.).

CITYLAND Comment: The residents filed an appeal with BSA on September 12, 2006. See BSA Pipeline on page 138.

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