NYU’s plan to expand in Greenwich Village experienced another hiccup Friday, as actor Mark Ruffalo cheered on the latest appeal in a lawsuit that seeks to limit the school’s efforts to build beefed-up facilities on two superblocks south of Washington Square Park.
Last January, the State Supreme Court ruled that the city, in approving NYU’s “2031” plan, had improperly turned over three strips of “implied parkland” without state approval. The school appealed that decision and in October, after a protest that involved cast members of Stomp, the court’s appellate division overturned the ruling, deeming the contested areas all-good for development.
At the time, NYU President John Sexton wrote in an announcement that the decision made clear that NYU had the legal right to construct a building that’s expected to contain classrooms, student meeting spaces, a new athletic facility, academic spaces for the performing arts, and faculty and student housing.
But not so fast, J. Sex. An appeal has now been filed with the State Court of Appeals by the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, including NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, East Village Community Coalition, the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, and NoHo Neighborhood Association.
Those and other organizations are arguing that the decision in favor of NYU will set a dangerous precedent — and Mark Ruffalo, who recently filmed in the East Village, agrees. “As a longtime advocate of our green spaces,” he’s quoted as saying in the press release, “I find it alarming that these public parks, which Villagers have been enjoying for decades, can just be handed over to a private corporation for its own financial gain. That decision must be overturned, not just because of its effect on that one neighborhood, but because of its disastrous implications for our precious commons all throughout the state.”
In October, Sexton said “the importance of this building to the future of NYU cannot be overstated,” and announced that the school would combat construction noise by upgrading all single-paned windows in the Washington Square Village (WSV) and Silver Towers complexes.
Sexton also noted that the school would create a temporary fitness center to make up for the imminent closing of the Coles Sports and Recreation Center. Last month, Capital New York that NYU bought a building at 402-408 Lafayette to serve as a temporary stand-in for the recreation center while it’s being redeveloped.
According to NYU’s FAQ about the Coles redevelopment, its plan will “create new open space” and “approves the mapping of certain City-owned areas along Mercer Street and LaGuardia Place between Bleecker and West 3rd Streets as parkland. They will remain mapped as parkland in perpetuity.” But Assembly Member Deborah Glick, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, is quoted in today’s press release as saying, “Public Space doesn’t belong to a particular administration or institution. The Public Trust Doctrine has been clear that public space cannot be bartered away or given away without State Legislative action.”
Editor’s Note: The quote from Mark Ruffalo that originally appeared in this post was revised after a publicist said it appeared incorrectly in the press release. The word “frightened” was changed to “alarmed.”