Around 60 or 70 NYU professors, members of petitioning groups, and Greenwich Village residents, including actor Matthew Broderick and playwright Kenneth Lonergan, showed up in court this morning to hear former NYC Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro, serving as lawyer for the opponents of the NYU expansion, argue that the city illegally gave away dedicated parkland to NYU when it approved the university's 2031 plan this July. Technically, Mastro was arguing for discovery, contending that NYU intentionally withheld information in order to maintain that four disputed tracts of land are not, and never were, city parks. The tracts in question, which include Mercer Playground and the LaGuardia Corner Gardens, have been used as parks for almost a century and are pretty obviously parks. ("Pretty obviously parks" is not a legally admissible term, unfortunately.) The judge agreed with Mastro, or, at least, agreed that all the information should be heard, and summarily granted the discovery, or, at least, made clear her intention to sign an order to show cause. To put it in very official legal terms, she did basically the thing that Mastro wanted her to do and did not do the thing that NYU's lawyers wanted her to do, which was to throw out all the petitions, declare that art is dead, and rename the entirety of Lower Manhattan "NYU's Freshman Dorm."
After the judge abruptly left the courtroom, whispers of "Did we win?" circulated through the crowd, which then filed out into the hallway where former high school classmates Broderick and Lonergan (who wrote Analyze This, Gangs of New York, and a whole bunch of plays) were holding an impromptu press conference. "The university doesn't own Greenwich Village, and the part they do own they're destroying," said Lonergran, who clearly has a way with words. "And it's not for the students, it's for money." Broderick was more soft spoken, but did offer that "Parks are what make the city livable." "There's only one Greenwich Village," he went on to say. "It's a creative spot and it's a shame to see it turn into all one thing."
Today's was the first court battle in what is sure to be a lengthy and drawn out war, but it was certainly an encouraging one for the Greenwich Village residents and preservationists who have opposed NYU's expansion from the start and, to this point, haven't had a whole lot to cheer about.
UPDATE: NYU just sent out the following statement:
Nothing changes as a result of today's hearing. The decision to sign the order to show cause was merely a procedural move. As the case proceeds, the well-documented history of this site will demonstrate that the properties in question have long been recognized as Department of Transportation strips, not parkland. The court proceeding today was an attempt to delay the scheduled judicial process and it did not succeed. · NYU Expansion coverage [Curbed]
· More info on the petition [Jeremiah's Vanishing NY]