Rent-Stabilized Tenants’ Suit Against N.Y.U. Is Dismissed

gardenSarah Darville Elderly residents held a “memorial” for Sasaki Garden in June.

A judge has dismissed one of two lawsuits against New York University’s controversial plan to expand in Greenwich Village.

Rent-stabilized tenants of Washington Square Village sued N.Y.U. in August, claiming that their landlord’s plan to redevelop a park-like courtyard in order to make way for two new high-rise buildings would illegally eliminate a “required service.”

The tenants had argued that the 2-acre “park-like area,” which includes a locked children’s playground and the historic Sasaki Garden, was one of the “required services [N.Y.U.] is obligated (as a rent-stabilized landlord) to provide without interruption to its rent stabilized tenants,” as part of Washington Square Village’s original “towers-in-the-park” design.

The lawsuit sought to block N.Y.U.’s plan to first eliminate the private park (along with the underground parking garage on which it sits) and then redevelop it as a “much smaller public park.”

garden 3Sarah Darville The memorial at Sasaki Garden.

At the heart of the argument was whether W.S.V. Park is currently private or public. N.Y.U. argued that it was the latter: community members are welcome to use Sasaki Garden and more than half of the keys to the children’s playground are held by non-residents, it said. But plaintiffs claimed that rules and regulations codified the park as private, and that in recent years signs had marked the Sasaki Garden as such.

Yesterday, a judge agreed with N.Y.U. that the claim didn’t yet fall under the jurisdiction of state supreme court, since the university had not yet finalized designs and secured construction permits. With the construction project “currently in its infancy,” the matter was more appropriate for the Department of Housing and Community Renewal, the judge ruled. Only after that agency weighs in can the matter go to court.

It’s uncertain whether the plaintiffs will go that route. Their attorney was not immediately available for comment.

N.Y.U. today hailed the decision as an “important legal victory.” “We are very pleased with today’s ruling and also look forward to prevailing in the Article 78 case that has been filed with regards to N.Y.U.’s expansion plans,” said a representative, referring to the other lawsuit challenging the school’s expansion plan.

That lawsuit also involves green space: Last month, Matthew Broderick showed up at a hearing during which it was argued that the city illegally gave the university domain over public parkland. A ruling on whether N.Y.U. will have to immediately produce documents concerning the matter is expected by the end of this week.