From the above opinion piece by Henry Stern, former city parks commissioner:
LaGuardia Park, LaGuardia Gardens and Mercer Playground are in NYU’s crosshairs for development. The university claims they’re not really parks — based on the fact that they’re technically overseen by the city’s Department of Transportation.
That argument holds no water. Not every slice of open public land is technically part of the city’s official park portfolio, but it’s how the space is used by the community that determines its status.
In this case, even though the strips of land in question were never formally turned over to the city’s Parks Department — as Parks Commissioner for 14 years, I tried repeatedly to make this happen — they have been used by the community as parks for decades.
A recent decision in state court set back NYU’s plans — by declaring that LaGuardia Park, LaGuardia Gardens and Mercer Playground are, in fact, entitled to basic protections as public space.
The city is now appealing that court’s decision, fighting in court on the same side as NYU. If successful, not only could the already scant open space available in the area become greatly diminished, it would be a continued violation of the Public Trust Doctrine.
That doctrine, which dates back to the time of the Roman Empire, is a crucial part of America’s common law tradition. It maintains that the government holds the titles to certain waters and lands in trust for the people.
This has evolved to extend protection to scenic resources, open space in general, energy generation and preservation of ecosystems and historical sites.
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.
Not only did NYU fail to take these steps, but our City Council then blatantly disregarded its obligations.
Naturally, I'd like to know how our City Councilman Dan Garodnick voted on the issue. It took a bit of time. Click on "Action Details" on the line that has City Council to find the answer:
The petition against the City Council, among other person and entities, which Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills ruled on:
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills rule