A rendering of the planned expansion of New York University New York University

A rendering of the planned expansion of New York University.

Court ruling means NYU can move ahead with contentious campus expansion

New York State's highest court rejects argument that the city had no right to turn over parkland to the university.

New York University has won legal clearance to move forward with a massive expansion of its campus in the Greenwich Village neighborhood.

The New York State Court of Appeals has dismissed a lawsuit that said the city of New York unlawfully turned over parkland to the university as part of the expansion.

The decision clears the way for NYU to proceed with plans to add several buildings that will have a total of 1.9 million square feet of space.

"This project has been the subject of years of planning and review, been approved overwhelmingly by the City Planning Commission and City Council, and now has been given the go-ahead by the State's highest court,” says university spokesman John Beckman. “We look forward to moving ahead with the project, which is vital to meeting NYU's pressing academic space needs."

Opponents to NYU expansion have argued for many years that the scope of the plans was too large for Greenwich Village. The specific challenge raised in the lawsuit was that the city did not have the authority to let NYU use parkland as part of the expansion.

The Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, rejected that argument and upheld an October 2014 appellate court ruling that the city acted within its rights. A lower court judge had ruled in January 2014 that city had unlawfully given up the parkland.

Even though the parcels in question had been used as parkland for some time, the Court of Appeals found, the city had clearly established that they would not necessarily be used as parks permanently.

“Several documents created prior to this litigation demonstrate that the city did not manifest an unequivocal intent to dedicate the contested parcels for use as public parks,” the Court of Appeals wrote. “…Although the city permitted and encouraged some use of these three parcels for recreational and park-like purposes, it had no intention of permanently giving up control of the property.”

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