A state appeals court dismissed an appeal on Thursday by opponents of the Museum of Natural History’s new educational center, removing what appears to be the last potential obstacle to construction. Work has already begun around the museum, including the removal of trees.
The 230,000-square-foot Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation will mostly be built within the museum’s existing footprint, but will also take up about a quarter-acre of Theodore Roosevelt Park. The debate over the addition — and its impact on the surrounding park — has played out over several years.
“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 spokesman wrote in a statement.
Attorney Michael Hiller, who represented the opposition Community United to Protect Theodore Roosevelt Park group, said that the principle behind the lawsuit remains important for future city projects.
“As for the decision, we disagree with it, but we do not regret having represented the community in this matter, which has been a largely pro bono project for our firm,” he wrote in a statement to WSR. “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.”
Councilmember Helen Rosenthal said in a statement that the center will have several benefits.
“We need space for our students, our residents and people from all over the world to be able to learn, study and absorb that growing knowledge,” she said. “The Gilder Center will be a great addition to this gem that we are lucky to have in our community.”
The museum hopes to open the center by 2021.