11 groups sue New York City to stop NYU expansion

September 26, 2012 5:48:09 AM PDT
Eleven groups have sued the city for approving a plan to expand New York University's footprint in Greenwich Village, a move that critics say could destroy the historic neighborhood.

The lawsuit accuses government decision-makers, including both the City Planning Commission and the City Council, of illegally turning over public land to facilitate NYU's wishes. It also claims the approval process lacked transparency and denied the public meaningful input.

The suit requests the court to reverse the city's approval. It also seeks to stop NYU from starting any construction.

The City Council gave final approval to the plan in July despite opposition from neighborhood groups and preservationists who warned that it could change the character of a beloved neighborhood that has nurtured artistic and social movements throughout the decades.

The area sports row houses and carriage houses dating from the 1820s to the 1850s. In the early 1920s and 1930s, the Greenwich Village Follies gave Martha Graham and Cole Porter their start. Among the artists who eventually lived or worked there were Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Allen Ginsburg, Andy Warhol and Keith Haring.

The expansion plan calls for four new buildings in the area around Washington Square Park and the demolition of two low-rise buildings. After objections from residents and NYU faculty, the proposal was reduced by about 20 percent to 1.9 million square feet of new classroom space and other facilities for the more than 50,000 students at the nation's largest private university.

Supporters have argued that the school's ability to attract top students boosts the city's economy because many stay in the area after graduating.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include NYU faculty members, Greenwich Society for Historic Preservation, Historic Districts Council, Washington Square Village Tenants' Associated, East Village Community Coalition and others.

The NYC Law Department says it's reviewing the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in Manhattan State Supreme Court.

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