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Appellate Division Affirms Dismissal of Challenge to the American Museum of Natural History’s Gilder Center Project

In a decision dated April 18, 2019, the Appellate Division, First Department unanimously and emphatically affirmed a lower court ruling dismissing the lawsuit challenging the legality of the American Museum of Natural History’s Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation. The Gilder Center will, inter alia, expand and modernize the Museum’s educational facilities, create immersive exhibits that better display more of the Museum’s collections, and use new technologies to reveal groundbreaking scientific research to the public. The lawsuit alleged that the Project unlawfully failed to comply with New York City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (“ULURP”) and City Environmental Quality Review (“CEQR”), New York City’s process for implementing the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”). Sive, Paget & Riesel, with the assistance of DLA Piper LLP, represented the Museum in the litigation.

The petitioners, a group of nearby residents, argued that the Gilder Center’s ¼-acre expansion into Theodore Roosevelt Park was subject to ULURP, and that the Parks Department failed to take the required “hard look” at the Project’s potential impacts with respect to hazardous materials and construction noise pursuant to SEQRA/CEQR. The First Department held that the Supreme Court properly determined that ULURP was not required for the disposition of City property or site selection, as the “disposition of the city property to the Museum of Natural History for the original building and future buildings to be erected in the area now known as Theodore Roosevelt Park, and the selection of the site for the Museum’s expansions occurred more than 100 years ago,” pursuant to an 1876 New York State statute and subsequent 1877 lease between the Parks Department and the Museum. The First Department also affirmed the lower court’s determination that the Final Environmental Impact Statement prepared pursuant to SEQRA/CEQR properly analyzed the Project’s potential environmental impacts and “articulated reasonable mitigation plans” to address those impacts.

 

SPR wishes to acknowledge the significant contributions of SPR alum Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz to the briefing on this case.