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April Volunteer Feature: Supreme Court Overturns Exclusive Concession Agreement for Randall's Island

Last year, NYLPI, along with parent/student advocates, park advocates, environmental justice advocates, local residents, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, LLP, and civil rights attorney Normal Siegel sued the City for violating land-use and environmental laws relating to the large-scale development of athletic fields on Randall's Island, a public parkland. The subject of the suit is the Randall's Island Sports Field Development Project and a "pay-to-play" concession agreement that gave wealthy private schools nearly exclusive access to playing fields during prime after-school hours.

In December 2009, NYLPI and its partners achieved a major victory in the case when Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Shafer found that the City respondents violated the City Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) in entering a concession with twenty private schools for the nearly exclusive after-school use of newly constructed ball fields on Randall's Island. The court vacated the concession and ordered the City to undergo ULURP review. In addition, the court vacated the Negative Declaration issued under the State's Environmental Quality Review Act, finding that the City did not consider the increased "intensity of use" of the Randall's Island Park nor the cumulative impacts of the different parts of the redevelopment plan in its environmental review. Finally, the court found that the petitioners were entitled to reasonable attorneys' fees.

"We are pleased that the affected communities and public schools will now have the benefit of the required review processes which are designed to provide public participation in government decision-making," said E. Gail Suchman, former NYLPI attorney and pro bono counsel from Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, which provided legal services on behalf of the petitioners in the case.

"We are thrilled that Justice Shafer has denied efforts to avoid open, democratic decision-making over such a valuable shared resource as public park space. We hope that her decision provides the impetus for a process that ensures that all members of the public, particularly residents of East Harlem and the South Bronx, have a meaningful voice in decisions about how Randall's Island will be used and by whom," said Gavin Kearney, Director of NYLPI's Environmental Justice Program.

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