A nonprofit group opposing the Museum of Natural History’s plans to build a new educational center on its campus has filed a lawsuit against the project, claiming the city approved it in error. The group, Community United to Protect Theodore Roosevelt Park, has fought the proposal since 2016, because group members say it will cause harm to the surrounding area.
“Unless overturned, the determination, in violation of the New York City Charter, would, not only result in the loss of public parkland comprising cherished greenspaces in Theodore Roosevelt Park, but worse, the project, if completed, would cause catastrophic environmental damage to the area, posing a series of life-threatening health hazards to residents of, and visitors to, the Upper West Side of Manhattan,” the suit says.
The suit was filed in New York State Supreme Court on March 15, and lists both the city and the museum as defendants.
The museum’s 203,000-square-foot Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation would mostly be built within the existing museum footprint, but it would also take up about a quarter-acre of the surrounding Theodore Roosevelt Park. The city approved the project in December, saying that any environmental hazards could be mitigated by the museum.
The Community United group also says that the city incorrectly claimed that the museum has full control over the park, and thus doesn’t need to go through a more extensive approval process.
In a statement, the city’s Law Department said “The city stands by its approval of the Museum’s expansion plans and its environmental review. We’ll review the legal papers.”
“At a time when science literacy has never been more important the Gilder Center will provide significant new capacity to enhance the public understanding of science,” the museum said in a statement. “We don’t have a specific comment on the lawsuit since we don’t comment on pending legal cases.”