Museum Construction Halted Again After Judge Intervenes

By Carol Tannenhauser

Just a week ago, the Museum of Natural History appeared to be in the clear to construct its new educational center; but on Tuesday a judge threw another roadblock in its path, at least temporarily.

Justice Judith Gische of the New York State Appellate Division of the Supreme Court granted a “stay pending appeal,” following a request by Michael Hiller, the attorney representing Community United to Protect Theodore Roosevelt Park, a neighborhood group that is fighting the Museum’s expansion. They claim the Museum is unlawfully grabbing a quarter acre of TR Park, which is owned by the City, and that construction of the planned Gilder Center will, in effect, poison the Upper West Side.

“A stay pending appeal, in this case, is like a temporary restraining order,” Hiller explained, in an email to WSR. “The stay in this case would prevent the Museum and/or the City from taking any action in the Park that would adversely affect its greenspace. That means they can do things like tree protection and root fertilizing; but they can’t take down any trees or bushes; can’t eliminate any grass, knolls, or pathways; and cannot otherwise interfere with the public’s use of the Park. The Court granted the relief, but on an immediate, interim basis, meaning that the temporary restraining order went into effect right away, but it will last only until a full panel of judges (five in all) can consider extending it indefinitely.”

William Raudenbush, chairman of Community United, was elated by the decision. “By reinstating the temporary restraining order and stopping the American Museum of Natural History from doing any construction that would harm Theodore Roosevelt Park, the New York City State Supreme Court Appellate Division has indicated that it wants to take a hard look at the important matters of law in this case,” he emailed.

The Museum is confident that once it does, “Judge Kotler’s December 10, 2018 clear decision on the merits, which dismissed the entire case, will be affirmed on appeal,” a statement said. “Yesterday’s interim stay order is essentially confined to seven trees. The Museum will continue to focus on the numerous aspects of the project that are already moving forward and on its commitment to bringing to New Yorkers and visitors from around the world the expanded educational and scientific resources made possible by the Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation.”

NEWS | 41 comments | permalink
    1. jeff says:

      This is great news! We are going to make the Museum pay dearly for trying to illegally expropriate parkland, to abuse and violate the law, to poison the neighborhood, and to build an architectural disaster. (They should also be forced to pay dearly for being a shitty museum that provides less educational valuable to children than the an iPad app).

    2. Jay says:

      What a complete waste of time by these NIMBYs. Time to move on to complaining about something else new.

    3. AC57 says:

      Is regression the goal here? It seems like it is. Building a condo tower on that plot of land is one thing. But this is reprehensible. This isn’t a concern for the environment. This is a stubborn standpoint against change and modernization. This makes the arguments against the likes of 200 Amsterdam look irrefutable. That’s how incredibly moronic this appeal is. If the state Supreme Court was in its right mind, they’ll allow the museum to continue construction. This is asinine.

    4. B.B. says:

      For the love of God, just settle this thing once and for all.

      This example of yet another “Jarndyce v Jarndyce” is an example of why this state needs judicial reform that includes loser pays.

      It also explains in part why every construction project in this city cost more and takes longer than elsewhere in the nation.

    5. HMar says:

      Oh for gods sake!!! How can people be so self centered?? There’s all this screeching about “the environment”, but this building is being built to educate the public about environmental science and climate change! Talk about not being able to see the forest for the (seven!) trees.

      • Janice says:

        A huge science center is available near Columbia U. North
        about 25-30 blocks
        Jenne Gang, architect, says this is an unnecessary bldg.
        Lots of space in the existing bldg that could be reconfigured
        for a science center.

        • Jay says:

          Thats great. You’re about three years behind.

          The gilder center is getting built. Only a matter of when and how much money you and the other three people in your group wants to waste. You must have a lot of money considering how much you’ve wasted already.

      • UWSer says:

        Ironically, this building will not be built with “green” standards or energy efficient. This is just a vanity project for the billionaire donor. We have been members of AMNH for years and my son did countless programs there, but I disagree that this new building is necessary. The museum, which sprawls across four blocks, is inefficiently utilized and has cavernous spaces that could easily be reconfigured.

    6. UpperWestSider says:

      This is absurd. Community United is fighting a losing battle and is delaying the inevitable. You know what is “poisoning” the Upper West Side? The scaffolding lining a beautiful stretch of Columbus Ave behind the museum. The longer Community United wastes money trying to halt this project, the longer that scaffolding sits there.

    7. Rick says:

      The NIMBYs win a little victory.

    8. D-Rex says:

      There are more important problems in the city/country/world for people to spend their time on…

      Is an educational center for the children (and adults) of New York really that objectionable to people? Seems there are some self-centered motivations at hand.

      For a similar situation, one needs look no further than the Rose Planetarium. The neighbors also fought this like it would hasten the end of the world. Once built, it is beautiful and a glowing landmark at night that beautifies the neighborhood. Oh, and educates people in the process.

      Please, find a real problem to address and stop wasting the museums funds fighting legal battles.

      • Christine E says:

        Rose Planetarium is great in concept (and looks stunning!), but have you been there lately? More than half of the “interactive” space exhibits there are broken or don’t work, for years. This is just one of many examples of the museum doing a sub-par job of operating and maintaining the museum. So much of the current museum footprint is poorly or underutilized. Rather than improve on what they have, they now want to expand to build more and add to the mis-management. I am 100% in favor of science education, but not this way. The museum has no accountability, whether to visitors or the community. Only a money and land grab.

        • Samuel Leff says:

          Rose was not a “great concept” It was like Gilder proposed a phony concept, done for alleged “scientific” reasons. The old beautiful Adler Planetarium in Chicago was renovated for $14 million, by installing a new S3 million Zeiss projector and new seating and NOT tearing down its Landmark, as happened in NYC to the Hayden. Hayden was torn down not for scientific reasons, but, like the proposed Gilder, for a tax write of
          of 200+ million {it cost 232 million) and the Hallowed Naming rights. For “modernists” who find glass box filled with an odd ball with strange protuberances appealing, it is a mediocre, ill fitting replacement for the graceful landmarked Hayden which millions of New Yorkers have fond life long memories of attending–Memories are just one of the qualities of a “landmark’ that should not be cavalierly destroyed. Not to mention that a so-called science institution tearing down a designated landmark for phony “scientific” reasons is and was to this anthropological scientist, outrageous. This project is as they say, deja vu all over again.
          My credentials; Margaret Mead was my advisor, Colin Turnbull–who did AMNH’s Africa exhibit was my colleague at Hofstra–You can find us together at http//www.wennergren.org/history/interdisciplinary-approach-planned-social-change. Malcolm Arth, who started the anthropology-film program at the Museum,was my first chairman, at Adelphi. For those who want a terrific Boasian history of the Museum please read Claudia Pierpont Roth’s wonderful New Yorker piece “the Measure of America,” 3/8/04. Reading this you will begin to see why it is educationally a crime that, in this day an age of rampant, racism, there is little or nothing about Boas’s role in fighting Hitler’s social Darwinism at AMNH. As to local environmental impact, when Hayden was destroyed, so was its on site parking lot for the school buses, which were callously orphaned to roam local streets polluting the neighborhood with diesel fumes hunting for parking after dropping off their charges. AMNH’s own EIS for Hayen was snuck in on a Saturday, when there were no school buses. And finally, as to architecture, try to find ANY prizes for the Rose glass box.

    9. Dr. Cary Goodman says:

      It is time for the museum to withdraw this odious plan to destroy and annex Teddy Roosevelt Park.

      Museum trustees and public officials like Scott Stringer, Gale Brewer and Corey Johnson should insist that the expansion proposal undergo a full public review and freeze public funding until a new plan is developed with park protectors.

      • Jay says:

        Time to find another vanity project for your ego, Cary. You are wasting far too much time and money. I know you don’t care about educational funding for kids, but the rest of the Uws does.

      • AC57 says:

        Please stop. Just stop. This is not a problem. Period. This is a narcissistic, damaging fight that accomplished nothing. This is beyond petty. Most of the construction is taking place within the museum’s footprint. They are also going to replace the trees. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this project. Stop making tiny sacrifices seem like the end of the world. The fact that a judge accepted your appeal is actually frightening. This project is essential to the growth and modernization of the museum and the neighborhood as a whole. It’s not 1920 anymore. Stop trying to hold the museum and the city back. For the sake of the city.

      • I love AMNH says:

        Hey, it’s the guy who got less than 4% of the vote in the primary while running on this very issue, and yet still pretends he is acting in the public’s interest.

    10. Martin says:

      I’m ashamed of my fellow UWSers for wasting valuable time and energy opposing this when there are many more quality of life issues that can be addressed for those that have too much free time on their hands.

      My advice to these people? Take up a hobby.

      • F Steinberg says:

        I’m amazed at the responses to this project.or are you simply dazzled by what only appears as a benefit to our community. Have any you done any research as many of us have done Are you aware that this project was introduced to the public as “a done deal” way back in late 2014, using taxpayers’ money in the many millions without asking the taxpayers. The building is powered by fossil fuels in this time of climate change which emits CO2 and plans are to cut down magnificent trees that absorb CO2 as the building emits more and more. Are you aware that at one of the hearings, the architect admitted that a new building could be put up on the present footprint by eliminating wasted space of which there is plenty. Just check what Maya Lin did at Smith College Library, she eliminated waste and was even able to give back some green space. Or are you all, like our current man in the White House, denying climate change?
        Then there is the question of the higher-ups who are the driving force of this ill-conceived debacle–he believes that man has conquered nature. He is a
        1% er who likes to see his name as often as possible like some other people we know in the White House. On the Bd of Trustees is another 1%er Rebekah Mercer who voted for Trump. What’s more have you ever heard of any of the Science PhDs. I checked a few–they are all adjunct professors-none have been made professors as far as I could see. If I am wrong, I stand to be corrected. I wouldn’t want people of this sort teaching my children. I spoke to a child I met who said in disbelief, They’re cutting down trees!?
        So, these decision makers and climate change deniers, will make an industry of sucking CO2 from the air as they manufacture it in their new massive building at the same time.
        And to call a member who is fighting for our cause a terrorist. When was the last time you were bombed?
        This last one shows the level of criticism at its lowest.

    11. UWSJoe says:

      The grinch stole Christmas.

      You’re a mean one community united.

    12. Parker says:

      Come on, folks. You can lie to yourselves and extol the virtues of AMNH, but one of the prime architects of the war on the environment and sciences is proudly sitting on the Board of Trustees. So long as Rebekah Mercer’s money is funding any portion of the organization, one should be very skeptical of this museum’s initiatives.

      I

    13. Fritz Mueller says:

      The Science, Education and Innovation part of the project can easily be accomplished within the existing footprint. The bombastic, energy wasting entry hall got absolutely nothing to do with Science, Education, Innovation, but is intended to attract up to a million visitors to a spot on Columbus av. which is ridiculously unsuited for this influx of traffic; it will be a party- and fundraising venue. The museum is mum about this part of the project, deceiving the public by hiding it behind its “Science, Education and Innovation”, for kids no less, propaganda. Who could object to that?

      btw- why are all these comments anonymous?

    14. Javi says:

      Only in NYC will people be against a bigger better museum of education for our children and adults alike. Sad…

    15. Elizabeth says:

      Thank you very much for your perseverance and hard work, Mr. Hiller. I’m an UWS resident who totally supports the position of your group.

    16. Debra says:

      These people need to get a life. Central Park is right across the street for God’s sake! And of course in the end the building will be built. That’s a foregone conclusion.

    17. Yours Truly says:

      Nothing better than a good fight over a tiny waste of space. Has anyone noticed the huge park a block away. Keeping fighting these petty issues while everything else wrong about this city goes unnoticed.

    18. People are pro-park not anti museum, and frankly many viable alternatives exist.

      It’s a false choice to pit culture against finite parkland in this case. -especially without a master plan.

      I will say, I can’t wait for the city’s premiere gala space to open nearby, all the glitz and glam of the temple of Dendur gala space sham.

      Oh, and the AMNH’s own architect conceded they could accomplish all of the goals of this project without taking any parkland, so this is about vanity and restaurants, not science. $100m tax dollars and counting for 13 new or renovated classrooms? Me think this cash would be better spent in our public school classrooms.

    19. B. says:

      The thousands of New Yorkers who oppose the Museum’s proposed project are hardly a fringe group. In addition to the other many concerns about the Gilder Center, they are aware that it would be primarily a gala space for the rich and powerful, not an educational institution. It would be paid for with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars – something very shameful in this era of homelessness and food insecurity.

    20. Dr. Bones says:

      The AMNH is a world class educational and research institution. Few other places in the world have inspired so many young people to become scientists and have taught us so much about geology, paleontology, botany, etc. Construction near the place you live is inconvenient but it happens everywhere in NYC. I haven’t seen a convincing argument why this location should be exempt. Also Central Park is literally next door so the impact of building in this relatively minuscule directly adjacent piece of parkland will be negligible to 99.999% of New Yorkers.

    21. Paul says:

      We had a Council race where the AMNH expansion was a major issue.
      Opponents got 4% of the vote.

      With good reason.

      Can we move on to real issues?

    22. Samuel Leff says:

      The negative comments sound like Rebecca Mercer’s trolls of Cambridge Analytica, seems like they have a list they are mining. Reminds me of the comments against Hillary that the CA trolls used on Reader Supporter News. Too bad that people like me, with deep deep roots in AMNH [Margaret Mead, Colin Turnbull, Malcolm Arth] and the community–Past Pres. of W.79th St Block assn, have to be thinking of Rebecca Mercer’s influence.

    23. fan says:

      Too many uninformed comments here.
      Why?
      Has there been too little education about evidence-based reasoning? About the scientific method?
      Not only should this proposed project have gotten more thorough review of the legal process BEFORE getting taxpayer money, the deficiencies, errors, and omissions should have been corrected first, too.
      Or, are there undisclosed conflicts of interest?

    24. Bruce E. Bernstein says:

      i’ve never taken a strong position pro or con on the Museum Expansion, and i thought Dr. Cary Goodman made a very weak case during his campaign.

      But i’ll say this for the opponents of the expansion: they are willing to sign their names after posting their viewpoints. The people deriding them are almost all anonymous. And the pro-expansion people seem to get very personal.

      I give props to the anti-expansion people on that point alone.

      • Jay says:

        “they are willing to sign their names after posting their viewpoints”

        All fake names.

        • Samuel Leff says:

          Jay Whoever. You can look me up at http//www.wennergren.org/history/interdisciplinary-approach-planned-social-change. Also on the cover of NY Magazine,
          10/17/88..and try Huffington Post and others.

          Samuel Leff

        • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

          Jay is an anonymous troll who likes to throw mudballs at people, usually from a pro-developer perspective.

          the people who are opposed to the expansion who are signing their names are mostly well known people in the community: for example, Cary Goodman, William Raudenbush, Samuel Leff.

          Assuming it is the same Fritz Mueller, he is a legendary distance runner:

          http://old.centralparktc.org/members/Fritz.htm

          but Jay apparently feels superior to all these people by anonymously putting them down.

          • Jay says:

            All of you are just as anonymous as anyone else here and it will stay that way until the blog ownership decides to put some sort of verification in place, which I would support. Unfortunately, I’m sure you’d see a reduction in posts from certain people who like to post under multiple screen names.

            • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

              seriously, Jay? we’re all equally anonymous?

              Balderdash.

              if a name-thief started posting under my name, i would let WSR know about it in a NY minute… and they would take it down.

              WSR knows that i am who is say i am. and the same for most of the others who are posting using their names… because we’re not afraid of expressing our viewpoints and letting others know where we stand.

          • Jay says:

            I’m not putting anyone down. I’m calling out their backwards thoughts. These are the thoughts of NIMBYs who are hypocritical and without thought or reason.

            PS. I guess jeff, Janice, UWSer, Christine E, F Steinberg, Parker, Elizabeth, Jimmy the fish, B., fan are also be dismissed and called names because they can’t be bothered to make up a name that sound “real” before posting. Have at it, Bruce.