- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - New York’s highest court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case that could threaten New York University’s ambitious expansion plan.

Lawyers for NYU, New York City and a coalition of groups that oppose the $6 billion plan battled over the question of whether a handful of strips of land that are part of the expansion plan are actually city parks that are protected from development.

Caitlin Halligan, a lawyer for the opponents of the expansion plan, said there is a sign posted on a playground that would be affected by the expansion plan that says the property has been formally transferred to the city Parks Department.

“It could have said this property is on loan,” Halligan said. “It did not say that.”

But city lawyer Michael J. Pastor said the transfer was meant to be temporary.

“They have to establish that the city of New York had an unmistakable intention to permanently dedicate these parcels,” Pastor said.

NYU officials maintain that the university is overcrowded and needs to expand in order to attract top students. Under the plan, NYU would add 6 million square feet of campus space by 2031.

A coalition of community groups, NYU faculty members and local elected officials filed suit against the university in 2012, saying the expansion would destroy the character of the Greenwich Village neighborhood.

State Supreme Court Judge Donna Mills gave the opponents a boost last year when she ruled that NYU needed to get permission from the state Legislature to use the parcels of land that had been maintained as parkland.

The Appellate Division in Manhattan reversed that ruling, and the expansion foes then appealed the Appellate Division’s ruling to the Court of Appeals.

The arguments before the seven-judge panel in Albany were livestreamed over the Internet.

The judges did not indicate when they might rule.

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