GREENWICH VILLAGE — New York University got the green light on Tuesday to launch its controversial $6 billion expansion plan, after an appeals court overturned a previous ruling blocking part of the development.
The decision reverses a state Supreme Court judge's January ruling that some of the lots NYU planned to develop were "implied park land" since they had been used as parks for years, and therefore the university could not take over the space unless it received special permission from the state to use for the project.
A panel of judges in the state Supreme Court's Appellate Division questioned how a parcel of land becomes "implied" as park land. On Tuesday, the judges concluded the plots of land — a community garden, a children's playground and a dog run — are not protected as parkland.
“While the city has allowed for the long-term continuous use of parts of the parcels for park-like purposes, such use was not exclusive, as some of the parcels (like LaGuardia Park) have also been used as pedestrian thoroughfares,” the judges wrote, noting that the parcels are mapped as streets, not parks.
The ruling clears the way for NYU to move forward with its development plans, which would bring new academic buildings, faculty housing and community space to Greenwich Village by 2031.
In a statement, NYU spokesman John Beckman said the university was pleased with the appellate court's unanimous decision.
"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," Beckman said.
The project has sparked bitter opposition in the community and a lawsuit filed in 2012 by Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, Community Board 2, local residents, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and others, in which they sought to halt the expansion based on concerns about NYU's use of the park space.
A spokeswoman for opponents to the plan said they will appeal the decision to the state's Court of Appeals.
“We are disappointed that the Appellate Division overturned the decision that would keep our precious Village parks — Mercer Playground, LaGuardia Park, and LaGuardia Corner Gardens — protected from NYU’s unnecessary and ruinous expansion plan," NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan said in a statement. "However, we will continue to seek justice in this matter and move on to New York State Court of Appeals.”