Volume 76, Number 19 | September 27 - October 3, 2006

Judge blows away air-rights case against N.Y.U. dorm

By Lincoln Anderson

Last Friday, in a setback to neighbors who filed a lawsuit against the construction of a new 26-story dormitory for New York University on E. 12th St., State Supreme Court Justice Edward H. Lehner issued a decision and order granting developer Hudson Companies and the city’s motions to dismiss the suit and denying the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction stopping the construction. Lehner disagreed with the plaintiffs’ contention that the transfer of air rights from the Cooper Station Post Office on E. 11th St. to the construction site was illegal.

“To claim that the transfer is invalid because the Postal Service might violate its agreement with Hudson and nevertheless erect a higher building is a highly questionable contention,” Lehner wrote in his decision. Lehner noted he was also reluctant to issue an injunction because the plaintiffs can appeal to the Board of Standards and Appeals regarding the city’s approval of the air rights transfer, and that the B.S.A. should rule first before the court considers intervening.

The plaintiffs, including Village Independent Democrats and Coalition for a District Alternative political clubs as well as neighbors, had argued that because federal property is not governed by New York City zoning regulations, the Postal

Service’s transfer of all the post office’s excess air rights to the dorm site is unenforceable by the city, meaning the post office still has unlimited development rights.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, who supports the plaintiffs — though neither Berman nor

G.V.S.H.P. is party to the lawsuit — said the plaintiffs are considering their options.

“Part of the decision is that there are administrative options, and we are pursuing that,” he said of an appeal to the B.S.A. “It’s going to be a long fight. But it is a fight we have to go through, because other communities and the city will suffer terribly if we don’t win — because this is applicable to scores of other situations that will be coming up.” Berman said they are still calling for the Department of Buildings to reverse its approval of the air rights transfer, “but we’re thinking it will come down to a B.S.A. case and legal appeals.”

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