This article was originally published by the invaluable NYU Local and is reposted here with permission.
A group of NYU professors filed a lawsuit against several city and state agencies yesterday, claiming that the city’s approval this summer of NYU’s 2031 expansion plan was against the law.
The professors are part of a group which calls themselves NYU FASP, or Faculty Against the Sexton Plan. They were joined by ten other neighborhood groups, who collectively charge that the various zoning law changes granted to the university violate land use regulations. The infringements cited include destruction of historic buildings, destruction of features within the community, alienation of parkland and violation of deed restrictions. Also prominent in the suit is the claim that the construction plan (slated for completion in 2031) will have significant environmental impact from pollution and construction noise.
The lawsuit is technically an Article 78 proceeding, which is how the decision of a city agency is challenged. A monumental Article 78 victory was won in Brooklyn last year, when local preservation groups sued the National Parks Service for allowing an old tobacco factory in Brooklyn Bridge Park to be bought for private development. The law firm that won back the factory was Gibson Dunn & Cruther, the same firm now representing the groups suing the city over NYU’s 2031 plan.
This is the same faculty-resident coalition that has bombarded NYU with raucous protest at each of the plan’s many public hearings over the past year. Their efforts came to a head in July, when the City Council (named as a defendant in the suit) cast the final approving vote for ‘NYU 2031,’ which would allow NYU to go ahead with its construction on the two ‘superblocks‘ just south of Washington Square. That is, unless this lawsuit (and another pending suit against NYU) gains traction.
But lawsuits are expensive to litigate. This summer, NYU FASP published While We Were Sleeping: NYU and the Destruction of New York, a book of short contributions by the likes of E.L. Doctorow and Jules Feiffer to raise money for their lawsuit’s legal fees. Fran Lebowitz even articulately freaked out about it for a full thirteen minutes at the book’s launch party. Next on the agenda is a ‘Save the Village’ benefit concert scheduled for October 10, with Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore performing alongside saxist John Zorn and a host of other groups.