Court Holds City Did Not Manifest Intent to Dedicate Parcels as Public Parkland

This case centers on a proposed expansion project at New York University (NYU) that would involved three acres of public parkland. The trial court first held that the City respondents had alienated public parkland without approval by the New York State Legislature, in violation of the Public Trust Doctrine, and enjoined respondent NYU from beginning construction in connection with the expansion project. The trial court then stated that even though there was no formal dedication of land for public use, an implied dedication could exist if the municipality's acts and declarations manifested a present, fixed, and unequivocal intent to dedicate. As such, the party asserting that the land has been dedicated for public use bears the burden in showing a parcel has become a park by implication, and may do so by providing evidence of the owner's acts, declarations, and the circumstances surrounding the use of the land.

On appeal, the Appellate Division held that Petitioners failed to meet their burden. While the City has allowed for the continuous use of parts of the parcels for park-like purposes over an extended period of time, this use was not exclusive; some of the parcels have also been used as pedestrian thoroughfares. Moreover, management of the land in question by the Department of Parks and Recreation was well understood as being provisional, pursuant to revocable permits or licenses.

The New York Court of Appeals would later uphold the Appellate Division’s ruling in Glick v. Harvey, 25 N.Y.3d 1175 (2015), adding that while “a portion of the public may have believed that these parcels are permanent parkland does not warrant a contrary result.”

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