A lawsuit hanging over redevelopment plans for the southern portion of Governors Island was dismissed by a judge this week, though the Manhattan resident leading the charge against rezoning plans said they would appeal the decision.
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Lynn R. Kotler tossed a legal challenge brought by Robert Manning in September of 2021, saying in an order dated Thursday that the petition was denied on its merits.
In an email sent to Gothamist on Saturday, Manning wrote: “We believe the court made errors, and we will be appealing the decision.”
Manning’s petition argued the looming changes would violate the “letter and the spirit of the deed” that transferred the small land mass in New York Harbor from federal to local control nearly two decades ago, at a sale price of $1.
“The Deed does not require Governor’s Island to remain static,” Kotler wrote in her decision. “It is not for the court or petitioners to supplant respondents’ determinations simply because a 360-degree panorama view of the harbor will no longer be available from the high hill in the southern park area.”
The lawsuit has weighed on redevelopment considerations for Governors Island. The New York City Council approved zoning changes last year that would pave the way for new office, hotel and retail space on the island, facing backlash from environmentalists and others in the aftermath. Meanwhile, the Adams administration is sifting through a final throng of proposals for the island’s Center for Climate Solutions, a research hub dedicated to studying climate change, planned for the island’s southern portion.
“While respondents and amicus lament changes to the natural qualities of the island, respondents have weighed those considerations and opted to prioritize enhancing public enjoyment and access,” Judge Kotler’s decision reads.
Manning has argued that the city’s plans would violate covenants of the original deed, which includes among other things the “preservation of natural, cultural and historic qualities of Governors Island.”
Kotler appeared unpersuaded. “The zoning and deed restrictions operate together as parallel regulations of the land,” she wrote. “Thus, the court cannot say that the City Council’s actions were arbitrary and capricious simply because the zoning does not mirror the Deed.”
Spokespeople for the mayor’s office and the city law department did not immediately return a request for comment. Clare Newman, president and CEO for the Trust for Governors Island, said she was “pleased” with the judge’s decision.
“The City has long envisioned the South Island Rezoning as a critical investment in the future of Governors Island as a resource for all New Yorkers, and the planned Climate Solutions Center is at the heart of that vision,” Newman said in a statement.