From: LCG Communications
Published May 7, 2015 04:36 PM

Sierra Club, Green Below 14 Join Bipartisan Group of 22 State Legislators, 27 Law Professors from Across the US in Filing Briefs to Stop NYU Expansion Plan, Protect Parkland, Uphold Public Trust Doctrine Locally and Nationally

NY, NY:  An unusual and powerful mix of environmental groups, legislators, law professors, and others from NYC and across the country have filed amicus briefs in the lawsuit that hopes to stop New York University’s massive and unwanted Greenwich Village expansion plan. They have filed amicus briefs not only in order to stop NYU from illegally flattening four beloved Village parks but to uphold the Public Trust Doctrine, which maintains that parkland cannot be removed without the approval of the state legislature. Filers maintain that the outcome of this case will have national implications for the way in which cities and states protect their open spaces and parkland: the court will either reaffirm the time-honored Public Trust Doctrine or throw it out, and so put countless open spaces—parks, playgrounds and community gardens—at risk of annihilation by public and private developers.  


A total of 5 amicus briefs have been filed on behalf of the petitioners in the case, which is to be heard by the highest court in New York State, the Court of Appeals, on June 2nd. The case has been wending its way through the court system since it was filed in September of 2012.


"We are extremely gratified to have such a broad, diverse coalition of parties coming forward to support our appeal, to safeguard the Public Trust Doctrine, and to protect one of our most precious resources -- our public parks," said Randy Mastro, a partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm that has represented the petitioners on a pro bono basis.


The amici consist of Sierra Club – the pre-eminent national parks advocacy organization with more than two million members and supporters; Green Below 14, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving parks, playgrounds and open spaces below 14th Street in Manhattan; a bipartisan coalition of 5 State Senators, and 17 Assembly members; New York Civic, an organization dedicated to transparency and fairness of government conduct, led by the longest-serving Parks Commissioner, Henry Stern; a group of several dozen law professors who are experts in the Public Trust Doctrine; LaGuardia Corner Gardens, Inc., and other community and neighborhood organizations. The final outcome of the lawsuit, which passed through two lower courts with differing results, could have massive ramifications for the way that the City, the State and the nation deal with public parks in the future.


Sierra Club filed an amicus brief because the organization feels that the case will have enormous significance for parkland throughout the country. Alan Gerson, a member of Sierra Club NYC’s Group Executive Committee said, “This decision is not only about the four parks at issue here. The permissible destruction of these parks in New York City will open the door to the destruction of parks and open spaces throughout not only the State of New York, but the country.”


Green Below 14, strongly supports protecting the NYC Parks on LaGuardia Place and Mercer Street. The City’s Parks Department already defines this community as ‘underserved’ by open space. Plans to replace Mercer Playground with a concrete entry plaza and tricycle garden will neither meet the active recreation needs of our community nor those of future Bleecker School students. Tricycles have an average useful life of one year and should not be the sole basis for a park meant to serve our entire community.” said Jeannine Kiely, a member of Green Below 14, one of the parties to the amicus brief filed on behalf of neighborhood groups.


The lawmakers’ brief argues that the City Council’s decision to authorize NYU to seize public parkland for development violated the Public Trust Doctrine, and that the State Legislature is the only entity that can legally make such an authorization.


“I believe the issues raised in the case are nationally significant, such as the role of the Public Trust Doctrine in protecting city parklands and the role of implied dedication in creating public parklands,” said Professor Michael Blumm, of Lewis and Clark Law School, one of 27 law professors who filed their own amicus brief in the case. Professor Blumm is considered one of the nation’s top Public Trust Doctrine scholars. “City parks are often targets of development proposals, like this one from NYU, and the Trust Doctrine offers a viable means overcoming the developers' political and economic influence, which local governments often cannot resist,” he added.


Daniel M. Sullivan, associate at Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP and counsel for New York Civic, which filed an amicus brief supporting the petitioners, said, “Parks can’t be taken from the public without a vote by state legislators. A decision against the Greenwich Village residents would upend more than 100 years of precedent that has protected our public spaces, including those the public has used as parks without their being formally designated as such. New York Civic has joined this fight to help guarantee transparency and accountability in government, and to make sure the city can’t cater to powerful local interests at the expense of the public’s right to use valuable parkland.”


“New York City's parks and open spaces are held in public trust, which means that they are meant to benefit this city's people.” said Mark Crispin Miller, president of NYUFASP (NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan), "Handing off these public spaces to a huge developer like NYU is a betrayal of that trust. We hope the Court in Albany will make clear that the City has no right to steal our commons from us, to benefit a private corporation." 


Copies of all of the briefs are available through LCG Communications; contact information is above.



Contact Info: Linda Cronin-Gross or Sonya Landau, LCG Communications:
o: 718.853.5568;
linda@lcgcommunications.com, (c: 917.767.1141);
sonya@lcgcommunications.com, (c: 520.204.3390)


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