Just when it was getting a little quiet on the NYU front (well, before last week’s Village Voice cover story), Former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern has come forth with information that works against the University’s – and, in reality, the City’s – plans, as first reported in the Wall Street Journal on Friday. This new information allows community groups, New York University faculty, and others who had filed a lawsuit against the plan to file a motion for discovery. They will be having their day in court tomorrow, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 26TH.
Bombshell Revelations as NYU Lawsuit Goes Before Judge Tuesday —
The lawsuit by GVSHP, NYU faculty, and dozens of community groups and individuals seeking to overturn the city’s approval of NYU’s massive expansion plan will be heard in court tomorrow, Tuesday, February 26th.
The hearing follows closely on the heels of the bombshell revelations in affidavits submitted by former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern affirming that the public land given away by the City to NYU as part of the deal was improperly disposed of, always functioned as public park land, and was only prevented from being officially mapped as NYC parkland by NYU’s long-standing objections. Assemblymember Deborah Glick, now a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit, also submitted a powerful affidavit.
From the Wall Street Journal article, Former Chief of Parks Backs NYU Plan Foes (February 22nd):
A former New York City parks commissioner said the city had long treated four parcels of land in Greenwich Village as public parks and had repeatedly sought to dedicate them as such, a claim opponents of New York University’s planned expansion said could block the project.
Henry Stern, who led the Parks Department for 15 years under mayors Ed Koch and Rudolph Giuliani, said in an affidavit filed Friday that the city had for decades “either expressly or impliedly” dedicated the four sections on the superblocks between Houston and West Third streets as public parks. Mr. Stern’s affidavit was part of a legal effort to block the NYU expansion.
The tracts of land—LaGuardia Park, LaGuardia Corner Gardens, Mercer Playground and the Mercer-Houston dog run—would be taken for either the permanent or temporary use of NYU in the construction of its planned 1 million-square-foot development. The City Council voted to approve the expansion plan in July, over the opposition of some neighborhood groups and members of the university’s faculty.
In a motion scheduled to be argued Tuesday, the plaintiffs argue the council exceeded its powers to grant control over the parcels to a private developer because the sites had been used as parks, which would have required the city to first get approval from the state Legislature.
NYU has previously rejected that argument. It has noted that the four pieces of land were technically controlled by the Department of Transportation, not Parks, and hadn’t been formally declared public parks.
That, Mr. Stern charged in an affidavit, is a distinction without a difference.
In addition …
In a brief seeking access to city records to support Mr. Stern’s claims, attorney Randy Mastro, a former deputy mayor under Mr. Giuliani, included photographs of some of the parcels and noted that some had signs provided by the Parks Department.
The department contributed to maintenance and design of some of the parcels, and Mr. Stern recalled helping speak at the dedication of the Mercer Playground, at which a Parks Department flag was raised, he said in the affidavit.
The only thing that stopped the city from officially adding the parcels to its portfolio of parks during Mr. Stern’s 15-year tenure, he asserted, was the objection of NYU itself.
“The only reason these sites have not been formally mapped as parkland is because of NYU’s obstructionist tactics and steadfast opposition over many years,” Mr. Stern said.
COMMUNITY MEMBERS AND OTHERS URGED TO ATTEND — COME TO COURT TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 26th, 11:15 a.m. 111 Centre Street (Franklin/White Streets), rm. 574 (map HERE), Justice Donna Mills. Bring photo ID.