Appeals Court Dismisses Challenge to Museum’s New Educational Center, Clearing Way for Construction


A rendering of the inside of the Gilder Center.

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.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 19 comments | permalink
    1. Wijmlet says:

      a real shame

      • Jay says:

        Yes, it’s a real shame that a couple of NIMBYs wasted years of time and thousands of dollars on nothing.

      • Karma says:

        It is a shame that your organization “ Community United” spent over $200,000 of donated retired people’s money… you should return it.
        “Community United” knew that this is never going to happen on their part.
        What a waste of your time.

    2. Bob Lamm says:

      No surprise that this lawsuit wasn’t successful. Really a shame that so much time and money was put into this battle–when there was never a chance of winning.

    3. Yimby says:

      Thank heavens this nonsense is over. The museum bent over backwards to assuage the NIMBYs. A quarter of an acre for a world-class educational center is barely an existential threat. There’s still 28 acres of parkland there and Central Park across the street. Get real

      • Nj says:

        When people criticize loosing land they are out of touch with nature and don’t value air they breath and to dismiss loosing these valuable trees is a terrible shame. One achre is a lot and when it is taken away it does make a difference. That was my quiet space to read and to have my baby nap all in the abundance of nature that will now be gone. Central Park is crowded and the quiet parts like Shakespeare’s garden is hilly and cannot have a stroller.

        • West88 says:

          You reading under a tree to the detriment of educating thousands if not millions of children over the lifespan of this education center??? How selfish indeed. Walk a few extra feet and enjoy your book. Sheesh.

        • Nimby McNimby says:

          Won’t somebody please think of your quiet space?!

    4. D C says:

      Yes, build a science education center, but why did it have to be on park land? Do they not have the ability to build up, instead of building out? Poor planning and engineering choices caused an unnecessary controversy.

      • West88 says:

        Build up?!? You are kidding right? Let’s count the amount of high rises UWSiders have petitioned in the last year – Amsterdam and 69th, 66th btwn CPW and Columbus, and the “shadows” from the 57th St high rises that block the sun in Central Park. You think up would have less NIMBY complaints? They would double. – “Don’t block my sun!!”

        Face it, UWSiders just like complaining.

      • Denton says:

        Based on current controversies on Amsterdam and West 66th Street, NIMBYs don’t believe in building up either.

    5. StevenCinNYC says:

      Finally. Such self-righteous BS.

    6. Che says:

      There’s a way to do things and a right way to do things. The usurping of public land with the help of a quasi-political office/court is no surprise to me, these days. One expects this to be a precedent to what can happen next. Bullying and taunting us is an important part of developers’ business strategy. Look at 200 Amsterdam now.

      • Jeff Berger says:

        You do realize that they are “usriping” public land to build a public museum/education center, right? The land serves the people and that is what this facility will do. You want people to be “pro-science”, well here is how you do it, by building a science education center. So what is the problem?

    7. B.B. says:

      While attorneys representing Community United to Protect Theodore Roosevelt Park group largely worked pro bono; the museum was forced to spend hundreds of thousands in legal fees.

      English Rule (aka Loser Pays) should be an automatic right; it would cut down immensely upon all this NIMBY nonsense.

      • Informer says:

        this organization’s lawyer did charge the lawyer is known as an “ambulance chaser” and of course he charged. I had spy’s within that organization and I knew every step they were doing. My spy’s were given flyers/posters to put up on lamp posts which went right into the garbage and never wore put up. They were raising money to pay for that rip-off lawyer in donations estimate over $200,000 of retired peoples money from the folks on W. 79th St. including BJK who matched every donation. It serves them right for losing it it was a lost calls from the beginning. This is the same type of naïve people that donate money on all the phone scams going on. Yeah! What a shame

    8. davidaron60 says:

      A real shame, indeed. To criticize NIMBY for the loss of public space to a privately funded and operated science center is not seeing the bigger picture. As others have pointed out, these “privatizations” by the likes of Trump campaign billionaire bankrollers like the Mercers, will continue unless we try to stop them.

    9. Bflat says:

      Now that the precedent is in place, it won’t be many years before the park around the museum is built on for one “urgently needed” project or other.