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Lawsuit Presses On Against NYU Expansion Plan

NYU Logo - File / Photo: Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

NYU Logo (credit: Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A lawsuit filed by opponents of a major expansion of the NYU campus in Greenwich Village has advanced, following a judge’s decision last week, according to a published report.

Manhattan Supreme Court Donna Mills on Tuesday allowed the plaintiffs in the suit to move forward with discovery to determine whether NYU and the city colluded for several decades to block several pieces of open space on Mercer Street and LaGuardia Place from being handed over to the Parks Department, according to a report last week in The Villager.

The NYU expansion plan calls for removing the four open spaces for an addition to the campus valued at about $2 million. The land would be used for part of the footprint of the school’s new “Zipper Building,” which would replace the Coles gym, according to the newspaper.

Plaintiffs have alleged the open strips are de facto parkland, and eliminating them would require the consent of the New York State Legislature, the newspaper reported.

Matthew Broderick was among those who attended the Tuesday hearing, in support of the plaintiffs. He accused NYU of removing a great deal of the unique characteristic of the Village, the newspaper reported.

The City Council last summer approved the plan to expand New York University’s footprint in Greenwich Village by a vote of 44-1. Following objections from neighborhood residents and NYU faculty members, the proposal was reduced shortly before the vote 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.

But Councilwoman Margaret Chin (D-1st), who represents the area, argued at the July City Council the reduced plan cuts the amount of planned above-ground construction by one-quarter, ensuring “that NYU’s growth will occur at a sustainable pace well into the future.”

“It is important for New York City and the Village that NYU has the capacity to meet its growing academic needs,” she said in July. 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.

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.

It is also the site of the 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn, 51-53 Christopher St., that helped spark the gay rights movement. The Village also hosts a yearly outlandish Halloween Parade, as well as the Village Vanguard jazz club, 178 Seventh Ave. South, where Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and other jazz greats performed.

Before the vote in July, author and NYU professor E.L. Doctorow published an opinion piece in the Daily News that accused the university of “colonizing” the neighborhood.

“I find it hard to believe that city officials have convinced themselves that no harm and only benefit would come of this monumentalizing of the university from the ashes of the historical homes and shops and gardens and definitive neighborhood streets all the world knows as Greenwich Village,” he wrote last year.

Late last month, the Village Voice published a cover story reporting that NYU faculty members also have been rising up in opposition to the NYU 2031 plan, as it is known. After not being consulted about any of the expansion plans, the faculty announced plans to hold a no confidence vote against NYU President John Sexton later this month just before spring break, the publication reported.

What do you think about the NYU expansion plan? Leave your comments below…

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)