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NYU expansion in Greenwich Village faces opposition from cluster of state legislators

A group of elected officials are fighting

A group of elected officials are fighting NYU's expansion in court. View of one of the affected areas between Bleecker and Houston streets, south of Washington Square Park. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

The battle over the future of Greenwich Village heated up Tuesday when a group of state leaders announced they've joined the legal appeal to block NYU's expansion.

Twenty-three state legislators filed an amicus brief with the New York Court of Appeals in support of a last-ditch effort to stop the university's development proposal for six "super blocks" located around the current campus.

State Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) contends the city and university violated the state public trust doctrine and didn't seek Albany approval for "alienating" small greenspaces in the area.

"The only thing the university ended up alienating was the goodwill of the Greenwich Village community," he said in a statement.

Proponents of the plan, which got City Council approval in July 2012, however, argue the appeal would prevent more open space and affordable units for the Village.

Other elected officials in the brief include state senators Daniel Squadron, Gustavo Rivera and Liz Krueger, as well as assemblymembers Jeffrey Dinowitz, Victor Pichardo and Catherine Nolan.

The proposal would create new buildings and facilities in the area bounded by West Third and Houston streets and LaGuardia Place and Mercer Street as well as further develop a few other sites.

In January 2014, State Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills sided with a group of plaintiffs who filed a suit against NYU and the city over its "2031 plan" and said the school needed state approval before it developed on a playground, a dog run and a community garden.

NYU won an appeal on the decision in October and the plaintiffs, which included the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), filed an appeal with the state's highest court. Hearings are slated for this summer.

John Beckman, NYU's spokesman, argued that the strips of land have never been designated as parkland.

"NYU continues to believe fully in this project -- which was approved 44-1 by the City Council -- and in the strength of our case -- which was strongly and unanimously upheld by the Appellate Division -- and we are optimistic about another positive outcome when the Court of Appeals ultimately rules," he said in a statement.

Beckman added that if the plaintiffs win the appeal, it would set a precedent that could hamper the future repurposing of land into necessary developments, such as affordable housing.

Andrew Berman, the executive director of the GVSHP, criticized NYU's plan, arguing that the school removed several affordable housing units over decades.

"If this is upheld, then public spaces held as greenspaces and gardens can be given away by the City Council at will," he said.

The school has its own set of allies that filed amicus briefs in its favor including nonprofits like New York Housing Conference and New Yorkers and New Yorkers for Parks.

Tupper Thomas, New Yorkers for Parks' executive director, said NYU discussed the plan with her group. The plan would create new open spaces in Greenwich Village that would be properly maintained year round, she said.

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