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Court okays American Museum expansion

A Supreme Court justice has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the American Museum of Natural History’s expansion project.

Justice Lynn Kotler offered a ruling that will allow the museum to proceed with its $383 million Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation project to create more space.

The group Community United to Protect Theodore Roosevelt Park had sued to stop the expansion claiming it would encroach on surrounding parkland and alleging that the city wrongfully approved a project that would cause “catastrophic environmental damage to the area.”

Kotler ordered a temporary halt on construction work at the museum pending a hearing on December 11.
However, the judge decided to forgo the hearing and dismissed the lawsuit altogether, ruling that the museum’s lease with the city Parks Department allows them to construct an appropriate building anywhere within the park.

The judge also ruled that the museum had proper mitigation protocols in place in case of hazardous materials being found during the construction.

David Paget, principal at Sive, Pagel & Riesel who represented the museum, said the decision would allow the museum to improve the offerings that make it a “world treasure.”

Paget said, “The judge saw through the fear-mongering, recognizing that the site was typical of construction sites throughout the city and not posing any unique environmental concerns.”

The museum released a statement praising the judge’s decision, adding that it followed proper procedures with the project.

“The expansion will significantly enhance Museum education programs, visitors’ experience, and scientific work,” the museum said in a statement. “We have also made a significant contribution to the ongoing maintenance and care of the park and will of course work closely with our partners to minimize any disruption throughout the construction project. We are very excited about moving forward and bringing this important project to fruition.”

Community United’s vice president William Raudenbush said the group will be watching.

“While we are disappointed with the outcome, we remain proud of this community’s efforts to stand up for what is right and protecting our public parkland,” he said. “We will continue to advocate for the museum to fulfill their promises to not disrupt this neighborhood both during and after construction.”

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