AMNH lawsuit dismissed

The American Museum of Natural History’s proposed Gilder Center expansion will occupy a quarter-acre of what is now Theodore Roosevelt Park Rendering: AMNH
Appellate court rules against opponents of Gilder Center, clearing path for museum expansion project
By Michael Garofalo

The American Museum of Natural History has again prevailed in court against opponents of its controversial expansion project, paving the way for the museum to complete the 230,000 square foot Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation.

In an April 18 ruling, the Appellate Division’s First Department unanimously affirmed a lower court’s Dec. 2018 decision to dismiss the proceeding brought by Community United to Protect Theodore Roosevelt Park, a local nonprofit group that argued the city did not adhere to land use and environmental review requirements in approving the project.

The decision likely marks an end to local efforts to block the project, which has drawn persistent criticism and opposition from some neighbors since the museum first announced the project in Dec. 2014.

The Gilder Center, which will include new classrooms and exhibition spaces and improve visitor circulation within the museum complex, will occupy a quarter-acre of what had been open space within Theodore Roosevelt Park. The expansion will also create a new museum entrance facing Columbus Avenue near West 79th Street.

“The Gilder Center will be a major new resource for science education for all New Yorkers and visitors from around the world, and we are extremely pleased that we can now turn our attention to proceeding with the project,” a museum spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Bill Raudenbush, the chairman of Community United to Protect Theodore Roosevelt Park, said the group does not intend to pursue a further appeal in the state’s highest court.

Michael Hiller, Community United’s attorney, wrote in an emailed statement, “As for the decision, we disagree with it, but we do not regret having represented the community in this matter, which had become a largely pro bono project for our firm. We continue to believe that the privatization of public assets by large institutions and developers poses an existential threat to the soul of the City, and accordingly, we will not stop our work on behalf of its communities until policies are instituted to protect our public parks and other greenspaces which continue to dwindle in the current political environment that so heavily favors private development over the interests of New Yorkers.”

Work is already underway on the Gilder Center, which museum officials hope to complete by 2021.