FHL Legal Update

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FHL Legal Update

Dear High Line supporters,

We'd like to give you an important legal update. Yesterday an appeals court overturned a FHL victory that two years ago stopped a High Line demolition proposal from going forward. But since the Bloomberg administration now endorses the High Line project – and the administration reaffirmed its commitment to High Line reuse when responding to yesterday's news – we're confident that the ruling will not hinder our efforts to create a great new public space on the High Line.

Some news reports have made it sound like the High Line is imminent danger of being torn down because of this ruling. This is not the case. A statement from the City Law Department yesterday makes this quite clear. "The decision does not change the City's efforts to preserve the High Line as a public amenity," said Jeffrey D. Friedlander, First Assistant Corporation Counsel.

The ruling grows out of legal challenge FHL filed to stop a demolition proposal developed during the previous mayoral administration. Since that time the Bloomberg administration has changed the City's policy to one that favors preservation of the High Line for reuse as public open space and has been working actively alongside Friends of the High Line to move the project forward.

The Appellate Division's ruling does not pose an immediate threat to the High Line, given the City's strong support for the project. If, however, the City's policy were to change, this ruling might allow it to commit to demolish the structure without going through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which requires review by the City Council, the Borough President, and the Community Boards.

FHL is reviewing the appeals court ruling and considering possible recourse. Meanwhile FHL will continue to work with the City of New York to create a legal structure and a design master plan for the High Line's conversion to public open space.

Background

In late 2001, the final days of the Giuliani administration, the City of New York signed onto a proposal that would allow the High Line to be demolished. FHL challenged the City's participation in that proposal, asserting that ULURP, a mandatory public review process, had been bypassed. FHL was joined in its challenge by the New York City Council, the Manhattan Borough President, and six local business-owners and residents. In March 2002, a New York State Supreme Court Justice ruled in FHL's favor, finding that the demolition process was indeed required to go through ULURP. The ruling effectively stopped the demolition process from moving forward. Demolition proponents and the City of New York appealed. On January 15, 2004, the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme court overturned the March 2002 decision.

Continuing Bipartisan City Support

The City of New York has shown strong bipartisan support for the High Line's preservation and reuse ever since filing in late 2002 for the start of rail-banking (the federal process that allows out-of-use rail lines to be converted to public open space). In July 2003, it presented bipartisan joint testimony in favor of rail-banking to the Surface Transportation Board by City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, and City Planning Commission Chair Amanda Burden. That same month, Speaker Miller announced a $15.75 funding capital funding commitment to the project.

FHL is confident that the City's enthusiastic support for the High Line project will continue regardless of the Appellate Division's ruling. The City appealed the March 2002 decision even after it changed its policy to one favoring the High Line's reuse because of the decision's potential to become a precedent in cases unrelated to the High Line.