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Appeals court approves NYU expansion plan

Vanderbilt Hall, part of New York University School

Vanderbilt Hall, part of New York University School of Law, on May 4, 2012. Photo Credit: Getty Images/ STAN HONDA

A state appeals court Tuesday gave NYU the OK to expand its campus despite protests from Greenwich Village groups who contend the project is encroaching on park land.

A panel of appellate judges reversed a January ruling that found three strips of land -- a park, playground and garden on Mercer Street and LaGuardia Place -- could only be given away by the state because the community had used them for so long.

The judges agreed with NYU and the city that the land had always been intended to officially remain streets.

"Any management of the parcels by the Department of Parks and Recreation was understood to be temporary and provisional," they wrote.

NYU's $6 billion, 1.9 million-square-foot plan envisions new academic and faculty buildings on two "superblocks" in Greenwich Village by 2031.

The expansion has riled community groups and some local elected officials who feel the plan would overwhelm the neighborhood and ruin its character.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which is a plaintiff, lambasted the ruling that he said allowed the city to "give this land away to NYU for its deeply unpopular and bloated expansion plan" and vowed to appeal to the state's highest court.

The tossed lower court ruling, he said, "was correct in identifying this much-needed public green space as parkland which cannot be alienated by the City or NYU."

NYU spokesman John Beckman, however, argued that the appellate court's decision was justified.

"The need for additional academic space is clear and has been reaffirmed by a faculty-led committee, and it is now also clear that the university has the legal right to proceed with this project," he said in a statement.

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