St. John the Divine project withstands EIS lawsuit

Court dismissed action because new environmental review would not restore scenic views. The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine leased part of its 11-acre campus to a developer, who built an 18-story residential building on West 110th Street at the corner of Cathedral Parkway and Morningside Drive. When local residents opposed the project, the developer agreed to make an honest effort to ensure that the building would qualify as an “80/20 building” under which 80 percent of the apartments would be rented at market rate, and 20 percent at affordable rental rates. In exchange for creating the affordable housing, the New York City Housing Development Corporation conditionally agreed to issue a $115 million bond that would help fund the project. Before it issued the bond, HDC completed an environmental assessment, concluding that issuing the bond would not significantly harm the environment, and released the funds.

Three long-time residents of Cathedral Parkway, whose views of the Cathedral would be blocked, challenged HDC’s environmental determination and the funding. In their article 78 petition, the residents asserted that the loss of scenic views triggered the requirement for a full environmental review under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act and the New York State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Law.

Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich dismissed the challenge as moot because a formal environmental review would not restore the residents’ views. The court found that, regardless of public funding, the developer could construct the building as-of-right, and that withdrawing the public financing would only result in a loss of affordable housing on the Upper West Side. The court also ruled that the residents did not have standing to challenge the funding because their injury stemmed from the building, not from the funding.

Sutherland v. HDC, 2008 WL 2663599 (N.Y.Cty.Sup.Ct. July 8, 2008) (Kornreich, J.) (Attorneys: John G. Lipsett, for Sutherland; Michael A. Cardozo, Daniel Greene, for HDC; Malcolm Duncan, for AMP Apartments).

Leave a Reply

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