If you’ve been following the debate over NYU’s expansion plans in Greenwich Village, you’d know that the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) has been one of the vocal interest groups spearheading the legal contention against the plan. Today, GVHSP announced that a substantial victory had been made in the campaign. In an email announcement, Andrew Berman, president of GVSHP wrote, “New York State Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills has issued a decision in our lawsuit against the City’s approval of the massive NYU expansion plan, and she agreed with our central contention that the giveaway of public parkland to NYU was illegal. This is an enormous validation of our efforts and a rebuke of the NYU plan and the process by which it was approved by the City.”

This decision affects LaGuardia Park, Mercer Playground and LaGuardia Corner Gardens, which were to be used for up to 20 years for construction vehicles and staging zones.

The official court opinion is here, which further clarifies the issue: four parcels of land are technically zoned for street use but have been de-facto used as parkland since the early 1980s. A 1993 court case, Lazore v  Board of Trustees of Vil. of Massena, established the precedent for how land can become parkland, through “express provision…or by implied acts, such as a continued use of the parcel as a park or other acts which suggest implied dedication.”

As such, this latest court opinion finds that the

“long-continued use of the land for park purposes may be sufficient to establish dedication  by implication, despite the fact that the property is still  mapped for long-abandoned street use. To rule otherwise would  effectively eliminate the distinction between express and implied  dedication of parkland. Here, petitioners have certainly shown long continuous of the four parcels as parks. Such long continuous use of land as parks by the public, at least in part, triggers the notion of a ‘public trust.'”

One building in NYU’s massive plan can continue however, and NYU claims the ruling is positive for them as well, with 5 of 6 claims dismissed. Meanwhile plaintiffs in the case, and affected residents, hope this is the first move towards a more inclusive public review process.