Monday, April 23, 2012

NYU Expansion Plan Opponents Want Hearing Postponed

The following LAW360 article was copied from the NYUFASP Facebook page.

NYU Expansion Plan Opponents Want Hearing Postponed
By Kaitlin Ugolik

Law360, New York (April 19, 2012, 3:48 PM ET) -- Attorneys representing two community groups opposing New York University's revised 2-million-square-foot expansion plan on Thursday asked the city's planning commission to produce a new environmental impact statement for the project and postpone a public hearing until specific details are released.

The attorneys, Randy Mastro and Jim Walden of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, argue that Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's April 11 written recommendation for the revised plan can't serve as a proxy for an actual modified version, a copy of which has yet to be made available to the public.

“Until the modified plan is made public — and a reasonable time is afforded to review and consider the plan — the public hearing will make a sham of the [Uniform Land Use Review Procedure] process,” the attorneys said in a letter submitted to New York City Planning Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden.

In addition, Mastro and Walden said that even with limited knowledge of the specifics of the new plan, it is clear that a new environmental impact statement will be needed. Not only has the environmental impact of the expansion changed, the original EIS was deficient because it failed to address the impact that the planned 20 years of construction and the addition of thousands of new residents and visitors would have on Greenwich Village, they said.

The community board unanimously rejected NYU's original 20-year, 2.4 million-square-foot growth proposal in late February after weeks of protests from local residents about traffic congestion and zoning restrictions. The university announced last week that it would trim various parts of the project, dropping an entire 20,700-square-foot temporary gymnasium and 183,000 square feet of below-grade space and shrinking square footage at all four of the proposed new buildings.

The changes won the support of Stringer, who released various details about the plan, but the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and the NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan said that not only were the adjustments “too little too late,” Stringer's summary failed to adequately inform the public as to the project's actual impact.

Residents are particularly concerned about noise, air quality, sewage infrastructure, waste and sanitation, energy and wildlife in the area, on top of the possible ramifications of four new academic buildings on the neighborhood's space, light and residential feel.

The opposition groups say their concerns — and those of more than a dozen other groups — were ignored by the borough president during the plan adjustment process. Specifically, Stringer allegedly refused to hold a public hearing for NYU's land use application, despite having done so for similar projects in the past.

“NYU ... planned all along to make a series of eleventh hour concessions to appear 'reasonable,' hoping this strategy would mollify critics and muzzle the community. The community saw this strategy, such as it is, coming long ago,” the letter said. “This would have been clear to the borough president if he had used, as we believe was his duty, a public process to vet the 'compromise' and the competing issues that counseled against it.”

Without the ability to review major modifications to this plan, the public cannot properly consider its likely impacts and comment knowledgeably at the scheduled public hearing, the letter said. It suggests that the hearing be rescheduled for September.

A representative for the planning commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The Greenwich Village historic society and the NYU faculty group are represented by Randy Mastro and Jim Walden of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

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