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Splinter Group Takes Harder Stance on Natural History Museum Expansion

By Emily Frost | March 2, 2016 4:51pm
 A new group has organized to fight the museum's expansion and creation of the Gilder Center, seen here as it would look in winter.
A new group has organized to fight the museum's expansion and creation of the Gilder Center, seen here as it would look in winter.
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A group of residents has formed a new organization opposing the expansion of the American Museum of Natural History — and they are holding fast to a demand that no surrounding trees or parkland be removed in the building of a new science center.

Residents formed Community United to Protect Theodore Roosevelt Park, Inc. in February after deciding that the group that first raised concerns about the impact of the proposed $325 million Gilder Center on a local park, the Defenders of Teddy Roosevelt Park, Inc., had caved too much to the museum's agenda.

Under the museum's current expansion plan, a parcel of land from the public Theodore Roosevelt Park and eight mature trees would have to be removed.

After the museum announced it would take over less parkland that originally proposed, the Defenders shifted gears. 

"Now, the chief task is to make sure the recreated park area will match or surpass the gathering place lost to the expansion," the Defenders said in an email to supporters last month. 

The Defenders lauded their inclusion in a recently formed museum working group as a way to "help redesign treasured green space affected by the proposed expansion," the group said in the email. 

However, members of Community United claimed this was proof the Defenders were too aligned with the museum and not willing to fight against any loss of land or trees. 

"I’m very afraid that the museum will get what they want without considerable opposition by us," said a Community United member at a Community Board 7 meeting Tuesday. 

Other Community United members who testified to the board Tuesday criticized the use of public tax dollars for the expansion and called attention to the environmental impact of cutting down older trees. 

"It will change the entire look of the neighborhood, the feel of the neighborhood. It will bring about food vendors," said Community United member Claude Beller. 

The new group also called on CB7 Tuesday to take a position on the expansion sooner rather than later.

Board chairwoman Elizabeth Caputo has said the board will officially review the plan when it comes before members as part of the public review process this spring.

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