MEATPACKING DISTRICT — The group fighting the Barry Diller-funded park slated to be built on the Hudson River just below 14th Street was dealt another loss in court Friday.
A New York State Supreme Court judge issued a decision in favor of the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Hudson River Park Trust and the nonprofit Diller founded to oversee the park project, Pier55, Inc., in a lawsuit brought by the City Club of New York, Rob Buchanan and Tom Fox.
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The project's foes have argued that it did not undergo adequate public review, and filed this specific lawsuit, known as an Article 78, against the DEC for approving the project. Their attorney, Richard Emery, claimed that department had an obligation to hold a hearing on the project, and disputed whether the park needed to be on the water.
The opponents already lost fights in two lower courts and with the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.
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Judge Lisa Fisher's decision in the DEC case described the foes' motion to be heard in a different county court as "nothing more than forum shopping" and the suit itself as "repackaged" and "substantially similar" to the cases they previously lost.
Fisher took issue with the fact that Emery — who resigned from his post as head of the Civilian Complaint Review Board last year among charges of gender discrimination — evidently did not notify the court of the multiple other lawsuits he filed to oppose the project.
"The Court was quite surprised to learn at oral argument that there was a third lawsuit in federal court," Fisher wrote in her Jan. 20 decision, referring to the still-pending case against the Army Corps of Engineers Emery filed in the Southern District of New York.
Noting that the opponents' argument largely focused on the "process" by which the Pier55 project was approved, Fisher wrote, "Process is a two-way street. Litigants are not permitted to abuse this process by litigating the same issues in multiple courts at the same time."
"It is a waste of judicial administration for multiple courts to be resolving the same issues at the same time," Fisher wrote, slamming Emery's neglecting to formally mention the other cases as "unacceptable."
And regarding whether a hearing should have been held based on the fact that 108 comments were sent in, Fisher wrote, "In a city with a population of over 8 million the Court cannot say a mere 108 comments constitutes 'a significant degree of public interest."
Madelyn Wils, president and CEO of the Hudson River Park Trust, said: "We're pleased to see yet another court resoundingly reject another ill-conceived lawsuit against a project with broad support in communities along the park. Work on Pier55 continues and we look forward to welcoming visitors to what will be a spectacular addition to Hudson River Park."
Emery hit back at the court.
"We respectfully disagree with the court because there was clearly adequate public interest to trigger a legislative hearing and the Pier 55 entertainment venue is not a water dependent use. These are the only issues we argued and we plan to appeal to pursue a fair result. It is important that we can count on courts not to be star-struck," he said.
Construction on the pier is already underway.