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Land Claim Case Study

New York City approved a plan by New York University (NYU) to expand its campus in 2012, a plan which included the construction of new academic and housing buildings. The parcels of open space in Greenwich Village, which the University planned to expand into have been owned by the city since the 1950s, and now serve as parks, playgrounds and community gardens.

The Sierra Club, a bipartisan group of local city leaders, opposed the expansion plan, filing amicus briefs claiming that those open spaces have become protected parkland through continuous public use. The State Supreme Court found the city had "impliedly dedicated" these areas of parkland, therefore, NYU's plan for expansion is in violation of the public trust doctrine.

DerOhannesian & DerOhannesian represented the Sierra Club in this case. The Sierra Club's role as amicus curiae was to direct the court's attention to the environmental and social impacts of conveying Greenwich Village parkland to NYU. Paul DerOhannesian focused the brief on the important roles that each of the four parks played in the community, especially considering that Greenwich Village had a limited amount of parkland to begin with. The brief was based largely on statements from the community.

Paul also argued that allowing the Greenwich Village parks to be conveyed would make it that much easier for green spaces in other communities to be destroyed throughout New York State. This is especially true in communities that do not have the resources to fight the sale and destruction of their parks.