NY State Court of Appeals Agrees to Hear Case Against NYU Expansion Plan

In the latest installment of the ongoing struggle against NYU’s huge expansion plan, the State’s highest court, the New York State Court of Appeals, has agreed to hear a case that was filed by petitioners in mid-November regarding public parkland. The lawsuit has passed through two lower courts, with differing results. Those following the dispute, especially park advocates, are awaiting a verdict that could have massive ramifications on the way that the City and the State deal with public parks in the future.

On October 14th, the Appellate Division’s First Department overturned a lower court’s decision that would have spared three parks—Mercer Playground, LaGuardia Park and LaGuardia Corner Gardens—from destruction under NYU’s current expansion plan. According to the lower court’s ruling, all three strips are public parks, and therefore entitled to protection, since the public has been using them as parks for many years, making them “implied” parkland, with the City funding, labeling and maintaining them as parks.

NYU and the City counter-argued that those parks aren’t really parks, since they were never “mapped” as parks (a bureaucratic technicality), and are nominally overseen by the City’s Department of Transportation. The First Department’s decision would allow NYU to raze those treasured parks to make way for its vast expansion plan, and set a precedent that could potentially threaten countless public parks throughout the City and the State.

Petitioners, NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Historic Districts Council, Washington Square Village Tenants’ Association, East Village Community Coalition, Friends of Petrosino Square, LaGuardia Corner Gardens, Inc., Lower Manhattan Neighbors’ Organization, SoHo Alliance, Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, NoHo Neighborhood Association, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and 10 other individuals, are represented on a pro bono basis by the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, with Randy Mastro as lead attorney.

Their motion papers make clear that “the First Department’s decision disregarded well-established common law principles for determining when municipal land has been impliedly dedicated for parks usage. In recognition of the unique value that public parks hold for children, families, and communities, the Public Trust Doctrine accords parkland special protection.”

The petitioners are asking the Court of Appeals to consider two issues: that the First Department’s decision actually conflicts with prior appellate court decisions, and prior decisions by the Court of Appeals itself, about this kind of “implied” parkland, and that the First Department’s decision, if left intact, will have the effect of abolishing implied dedication—a consequence with widespread negative effects, not just in New York City, but throughout the State.

Parks and open spaces are protected by the Public Trust Doctrine, which maintains that the government holds the titles to certain waters and lands in trust for the people. In New York State, if an entity wishes to develop or remove a parcel of parkland from public ownership and use, it must follow a legal process called “alienation,” which, among other conditions, requires approval from the state Legislature. This was not done in the case of the Village parks that NYU wants to destroy for its ill-advised expansion plan. The First Department’s decision flies in the face of this doctrine and of its own decisions, and would imperil all kinds of public and green spaces throughout the state; it would leave ordinary New Yorkers with no protection against the removal and abuse of open spaces and parks for development.

City issues permits for restoration work at P.S. 64

Since receiving the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s blessing in 2013, Gregg Singer may finally be moving forward with restoration work at former P.S. 64/ CHARAS – El Bohio. The landmarked school building has been vacant following the eviction of the former tenants of El Bohio led by CHARAS in 2001. The City reversed its short-lived approval for plans to convert the building into a multi-school “dormitory” this past September.

The project’s future is uncertain, but the exterior work may begin soon. The owner got the okay from Landmarks more than a year ago to perform restorative work to replace damaged architectural details and to install new windows. Two permits from the Department of Buildings issued in January allow for repairs to the dormers, mansard roof, roofing, and the facade. LPC also supported alterations to carve along the edges of the raised courtyards to create windows at ground level for dorm rooms. It does not appear that the permits issued allow for this component of the work.

While the permits are dated 2015, the owner set the start date for the work in August, prior to the project’s approval and subsequent Stop Work Order. The DOB maintains its objections to the dormitory plan, which Singer will need to resolve before moving forward with any interior work. We support the City’s objections to the project as presented and maintain that a dormitory is an improper use for the site.

Old P.S 64 has endured several major weather events while unsealed including Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy. The condition of the building is not entirely due to wear-and-tear; at the time of landmarks designation, many architectural details suffered damage by the workers. Facade and architectural restoration work is welcome if it will protect this historic neighborhood gem. We will watch to see if, after years of decay, some restorative work begins here.

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Petition: Establish a Community Gardens District in Community Board 3

Petitioning the City Of New York to
Establish a Community Gardens District that includes all community gardens within Community Board 3, and map and designate these gardens as parklands.

On January 15th, the CB3 Parks Committee unanimously passed a resolution in support of establishing a Community Gardens District. The full board will vote at their monthly item on Thursday, January 29th at University Settlement, Speyer Hall, 184 Eldridge Street (btwn Rivington & Delancey Sts). Supporters of the district are encouraged to attend.

Community Board 3 (CB3) is the birthplace of community gardens in New York City and New York State. In 1973, the first garden was established in CB3 by local activists who worked to reverse years of decline and neglect by public and private property owners.

At one time, there were fifty-seven registered community gardens in CB3, and dozens more operating independently. As the neighborhood evolved, however, numerous gardens were bulldozed as development proceeded.

Today, there are still forty-six community gardens located in CB3 – the highest density in New York City. Community Board 3 has been strengthened by the history of its community gardens, which provide environmental, cultural, aesthetic, ecological, economic, and artistic benefits to this community, and more.

While gardens located on City-owned lots are of indisputable value, they unfortunately are not permanent. We are asking that all community gardens in CB3 be mapped and designated as parklands by the City of New York, designated a special Community Gardens District, and continue to be managed by community-based volunteers.

Sign the petition to show your support.

Plan to remove buildings from LPC’s calendar dropped

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Nearly one hundred potential landmarks are protected after the Landmarks Preservation Commission withdrew its proposal to remove these buildings from its calendar for consideration. The vote planned for this week would have unilaterally “de-calendared” buildings in all five boroughs, leaving them open to alteration or demolition without review.

In the East Village, 138 Second Avenue is among the buildings that could have lost this crucial protective status. This 19th-century federal-style home was declared worthy of consideration in 2009. Without a vote in October, the neighborhood’s newest designated landmark Tifereth Israel would have also been removed from LPC’s calendar for consideration. The community achieved a swift victory in part because the building, calendared in 1966, was immediately eligible for a hearing and designation.

Former commissioners found the buildings on the list worthy of LPC’s consideration. If de-calendared, each building would need to be calendared again – a required step in the landmarks process – before coming before today’s commission for designation.

The LPC also drew criticism for failing to schedule public review of the controversial plan. We are grateful to be a part of a preservation community that created the awareness that successfully ended the proposal. We urge the LPC to dedicate its resources to hearing these structures individually for designation.

 

City Raises Objections to “Dorm” Plan for PS64

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The Department of Buildings has issued a Stop Work Order and moved to revoke a partial permit for the dorm conversion planned for former PS64/ CHARAS – El Bohio. In response to Councilmember Rosie Mendez’s letter dated September 3rd, the DOB raised objections to the approved conversion plan, which had earned agency support based on misinformation. The plan violates the zoning code and the “dorm rule”, a hard-fought protection on the speculative development of student housing.

The collective efforts of community groups, community members and the community board with a unified group of elected officials led by CM Mendez kept the energy and pressure needed to reverse the City’s decision. We continue to demand the return of this landmark building to true community use.

The EVCC remains dedicated to ensuring that the historic PS64 building and the intent for future use at the time of its sale are honored. Join us, other community groups, residents, and CM Mendez with other elected officials at a rally/ press conference on Sunday, 1pm at 605 East 9th Street (Avenues B & C)!

It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood (Garden)

East Village Residents gather around treats and talk neighborhood shop.

East Village residents gather around treats and talk neighborhood shop.

Last Tuesday, July 8th marked the East Village Community Coalition Host Committee’s third ever “First Tuesdays” event. We were fortunate to make use of the beautiful Green Oasis Community Garden & Gilbert’s Sculpture Garden. This large-lot community garden, tucked away on 8th St. near Avenue D, was slated to be shut down by the Giuliani administration. The gardeners successfully protected the site through the early aughts. Thanks to their efforts, the garden today features a gazebo, stage, brick oven grill and a koi pond. Green Oasis was the perfect setting for East Village residents and enthusiasts to socialize, share with and support one another.

The Koi Pond, one of the many beautiful and unique features of the garden.

The Koi Pond, one of the many beautiful and unique features of the garden.

Throughout the evening, residents mingled over wine and delicious cookies generously donated by Taneesha Crawford of Rebellious Treats. We were fortunate to welcome State Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh who joined in the festivities. Each guest left with a printed map marking East Village community gardens and their accompanying information. Interested in finding your local community garden? Click here or check out this East Village Gardens Key.
If you weren’t able to attend our most recent First Tuesday, don’t fret! We are in the midst of assembling another exciting event for Wednesday, August 13th, and you’re invited. Looking to learn more about our Host Committee and the EVCC, or considering volunteering?  Contact HOSTCOMMITTEE@EVCCNYC.ORG for more information.

Accidental Skyline: A Map of Underbuilt Manhattan

 

 

The Municipal Art Society released a new tool for identifying parcels with air space that can be developed under existing zoning. Much of the East Village is already near or at its height limit as a result of the 2008 contextual rezoning advanced by the EVCC and the East Village/ Lower East Side community. Some lots (in darker shades) remain vulnerable to potential future development. Neighbors take notice of underbuilt neighbors that may one day attract development interest.
View the interactive map.

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Buildable space in the East Village available on MAS’s Accidental Skyline

Community Calendar Now Live!

Bookmark our community calendar the keep up with exciting East Village events, community announcements, and important meetings!

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Email info@evccnyc.org to get your event listed.

Chalk LES

May 2, 2014

Share your memories and images of the Lower East Side on the city’s pavements.
EVCC will be scribbling on East 9th Street near Avenue B from 12pm – 3pm.

May Is Final
First Tuesdays and Chalk LES are organized in celebration of Lower East Side History Month
See the full schedule of events at www.leshistorymonth.org

Help St. Mark’s Bookshop move to new location in the East Village

The Friends of St. Mark’s Bookshop is sponsoring an Indiegogo campaign to move the Bookshop into a new space in the East Village. But the Bookshop needs another financial push to build out the space and pay for moving costs, as well as maintaining its inventory for the remaining months at 31 Third Avenue. Once again, we turn to our loyal community for help.

For contributions of $250 up to $5,000, St. Mark’s Bookshop has one-of-a-kind books, including signed first editions that are personalized by the authors, as thank you gifts to our generous campaign supporters. These authors include Junot Diaz, Anne Carson, Anne Waldman, Patti Smith, Paul Auster, Lydia Davis, Eileen Myles, and others. Discounts on future purchases are also included for contributors. Even giving a smaller amount can get you a gift certificate to spend at the store.

Now is the opportunity for a final push as St. Mark’s reinvents itself as a non-profit event space, while continuing to fill the East Village’s niche for a small brick-and-mortar bookstore featuring carefully selected new theoretical, political, art, design, poetry and independent literary texts in traditional print format.

East Village Community Coalition
143 Avenue B - Simplex
New York, NY 10009
212-979-2344