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American Museum of Natural History’s expansion plans halted by lawsuit

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A state supreme court judge has issued a temporary restraining order that halts construction until December 11, 2018

The American Museum of Natural History’s expansion plans have been put on hold following the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) by New York State Supreme Court justice Lynn Kotler. The TRO against the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation stems from a lawsuit filed by a group known as Community United to Protect Theodore Roosevelt Park, which has been opposed to the expansion for quite some time now.

The museum filed plans for its five-story, Studio Gang-designed expansion in August 2017, and began pre-construction work on the building last month. This further angered the community group opposed to the development, who were waiting on the October 2 hearing date for the lawsuit they had filed against the museum earlier this year.

For now, construction work, and any planned removal of trees from the park will have to be halted until a court hearing that’s been scheduled for December 11, 2018. Community United has been opposed to the project on the grounds that it will destroy the park, lead to the removal of trees, and that construction work will pose a safety and environmental hazard to the surrounding community.

“Teddy Roosevelt would be cheering the Court’s decision, which protects this historic park dedicated to his legacy as America’s original and most prominent conservationist,” said Michael Hiller, the lawyer for Community United, in a statement.

The expansion project does however have the backing of some community members including the local community board, and has already received the approval of the city’s Parks Department to move forward with its plans. The project was originally scheduled to wrap construction in 2020, but it’s not yet clear how much of a setback this lawsuit will be on the construction timeline.

The Museum plans to challenge the court’s decision and issued the following statement:

Enhancing science literacy has never been more important than it is now, and the Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation will add significant capacity to the Museum’s ability to fulfill this important part of our mission. The Gilder Center, like all applicable Museum projects, has complied with New York City’s rigorous environmental review process, which in this case lasted approximately two years and included multiple levels of review and public consultation. The City of New York and the Museum have the right to bring this matter at this time to the appellate court and we intend to do so.