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MoMA wins court appeal.

An appeals court unanimously upheld a lower court decision dismissing a lawsuit brought by neighborhood residents attempting to stop renovations undertaken by the Metropolitan Museum on Manhattan's East Side.

The New York City Parks Department had approved the plans in December 2000. The renovations mostly involved internal changes, like updating the Roman Gallery, revamping space for educational programs and building a cafeteria.

"Given the clear legal precedents, we believe the Appellate Division properly rejected the coalition's belated attempt to stop renovations at the Metropolitan Museum--most of which had already been completed," said Kristen Helmers, Senior Counsel, Appeals Division, NYC Law Department, on Metropolitan Museum Win.

However, a local neighborhood coalition--Metropolitan Museum Historic District Coalition--had claimed, among other things, that further improvements would increase the museum's visitors, thereby causing traffic congestion, pollution and safety problems. According to the neighbors, the City had permitted the plans to go forward without undertaking an analysis of these possible environmental effects, which the coalition claimed was in violation of State and City Environmental Quality Review laws.

Interestingly, virtually all of the renovations that the coalition had complained about were already in place when it filed its appeal--including all the aforementioned changes. The only remaining renovations included completing a wing called Wing K and adding gallery space in the "Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas" Wing.

The Appellate Division this week agreed with the lower court ruling (New York Supreme Court) and said that the lawsuit commenced by the neighborhood coalition in November 2003 was too late, because this type of action, which is known as an "Article 78 proceeding" and which is intended to provide for relatively quick review of government decision making, has a four-month statute of limitations. In other words, the coalition was required to challenge the Met's project within four months of the Parks Department's approval of the plans--or by April 2001--and, despite being aware that this approval had been obtained, the coalition waited almost another two and one-half years before filing their petition seeking judicial review.

Justice Eugene Nardelli of the Appellate Division, First Department, authored yesterday's ruling.
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Title Annotation:Metropolitan Museum of Art
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Jun 8, 2005
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