Lawsuit Against N.Y.U. 2031 Likely on the Horizon

NYU Core Aerial Rendering July 24Courtesy of N.Y.U. A rendering of N.Y.U.’s plans for two blocks south of Washington Square Park that features the newly reduced buildings.

Opponents of N.Y.U.’s expansion are hinting that they will announce new legal maneuvers to derail the project should it be approved the City Council tomorrow as expected.

An e-mail from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation notes that lawyers representing faculty opposed to the plan will speak tomorrow after the vote at City Hill “regarding their next steps.” Those opponents have long spoken about the possibility of challenging the land-use review process in court.

NYU 2031 RevisionN.Y.U. A slide depicting the reduction of building’s in
the proposed project footprint.

The executive director of the Greenwich Village Society, Andrew Berman, would not comment on the organization’s specific legal plans until tomorrow, but added, “Should they vote to approve this plan, we and our partners on the N.Y.U. faculty will be working closely with our counsel, Gibson Dunn, to look at every remedy available to right this wrong.”

Lawyers for Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher previously laid out their objections to the process in a 51-page statement submitted to the City Planning Commission in May. That statement called the environmental review process “flawed” and said that the public did not have “sufficient information to meaningfully comment” on the plans between Manhattan Borough President’s modifications to the plans in early April and the City Planning Commission hearing at the end of that month.

The full City Council vote is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. tomorrow, and is the last hurdle in the approval process for N.Y.U., given Mayor Bloomberg’s support for the project. Last week, the Council’s land use committee voted 19-1 to approve the plans, a sign that they will likely pass the full Council as well.

NYU 2031 RevisionN.Y.U. Another slide depicting reduced buildings
in the footrpint.

That victory for N.Y.U. followed negotiations led by Councilwoman Margaret Chin that extracted a number of concessions from the university, including a reduction of one of the boomerang buildings planned for the Washington Square Village superblock from 11 stories to four. Those changes did little to satisfy opponents, who want N.Y.U.’s plans sent back to the drawing board.

At a protest before last week’s committee vote, Mark Crispin Miller, an N.Y.U. professor and one of the of the leading opponents of the plan, said that he was confident that they would be able to block the proposal even if N.Y.U. prevailed in the Council.

“We’re going to hire lawyers, and we’re going to go to the courts—and then there’s the court of public opinion,” Mr. Miller said.

An N.Y.U. spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment. The Local will update this post if she gets back to us.

Update | 5:59 p.m. Here’s an N.Y.U. spokesman’s response: “For the past seven months, N.Y.U. has been focused on the public land review process, in which we have engaged and sought input from Community Board 2, the Manhattan borough president, the City Planning Commission, the City Council’s Committee on Land Use and the City Council. We look forward to tomorrow’s vote by the Council on the N.Y.U. 2031 expansion plan, which we believe will enable the University to meet its academic space needs for the next two decades.”