The Closure Process
Over the years, the Coast Guard has repeatedly considered closing the Support Center on Governors Island for budgetary reasons. Most recently, in 1989, and again in 1993 and 1994, the Coast Guard conducted formal studies to assess the operational and economic ramifications of closing the Support Center. The Coast Guard determined from the studies that it could save approximately $ 33 million per year by ceasing operations on Governors Island.
The Coast Guard thereafter hired a private environmental consulting firm to prepare an Environmental Assessment ("EA") to assess whether closure of the Support Center would have a significant environmental impact within the meaning of NEPA. In February 1995, the Coast Guard made a draft EA available to various agencies, organizations, and other potentially interested parties for public comment. The Coast Guard also published notice of the availability of the draft EA in the Governors Island Gazette.
In response to comments and criticisms it received, the Coast Guard revised the draft EA. In June 1995, the Coast Guard published notice of the availability of a final EA and a draft FONSI for comment in the Federal Register, the New York Daily News, and the Governors Island Gazette. The Coast Guard also mailed copies of the final EA and draft FONSI to approximately 60 agencies, organizations, and interested parties. After receiving and responding to further agency and public comment, Coast Guard officials signed the Governors Island FONSI on August 2, 1995. On October 16, 1995, the Coast Guard Commandant approved the plan to close the Support Center. As noted above, the first waves of relocation of personnel are scheduled to begin on May 10, 1996. The closing of operations on the base is to continue throughout the summer, with the final closing day expected to be at the end of August 1996. See Feb. 27 Hearing Tr. at 4.
The Instant Action
Plaintiffs commenced this lawsuit with the filing of a pro se complaint on February 9, 1996. At the time of the filing of the complaint, plaintiff Terrance Knowles was employed as an Environmental Protection Specialist to the Coast Guard on Governors Island.
Plaintiff Lawrence Ebner is a retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel residing in Wethersfield, Connecticut. Plaintiffs bring claims against the Coast Guard, the Council on Environmental Quality, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency under NEPA, the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 551 et seq., the National Historic Preservation Act ("NHPA"), 16 U.S.C. § 470 et seq., the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552, the Civil Service Act of 1883 (the Pendleton Act), and various federal ethics regulations. Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction seeks to enjoin only the Coast Guard, although all Defendants oppose the motion. Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief solely under NEPA.
Together with the filing of the pro se complaint on February 9, 1996, Plaintiffs moved by Order to Show Cause for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. On the same day, United States District Judge Charles S. Haight, sitting in the Emergency Relief Part, Part I, denied Plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order, finding that Plaintiffs had made an insufficient showing of irreparable harm to warrant such relief. Judge Haight also scheduled a hearing on Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction to take place before United States District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan later that month. After an initial conference before Judge Kaplan, and before the hearing could be held, the action was reassigned to the writer. Plaintiffs retained legal counsel during the pendency of this preliminary injunction motion, and thus no longer proceed pro se.
Plaintiffs are chiefly concerned with the impact closure will have on Governors Island's historic structures. They also express concern with the ultimate disposition of the island after the closure process is complete. Plaintiffs anticipate that the Coast Guard will "excess" the Island after the closure process is complete, setting the stage for public sale of Governors Island by the General Services Administration.
There is no question that there is an abundance of interest in the future of Governors Island. Already, the City of New York has established a task force on the future of the island. "Architects, developers, urban planners, civic leaders and government officials are (also reportedly) eying the island[,] [with] ideas . . . ranging from a gambling casino to one writer's fanciful Grateful Dead theme park. Other suggestions: high-rise apartments, a new city neighborhood, an educational institution, a corporate conference center." Big-City Plans, supra; see also Robin Pogrebin, Setting Sail with Yoga: 'Om' Helps Ease Stress of Base's Closing, N.Y. Times, Mar. 30, 1996, at A2 ("With breath-taking views of Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty, the island also represents one of the most prime pieces of real estate in New York City."); Robert Monroe, Governors Island Sale Tantalizes Developers: Coast Guard Plans to Close Base in 1998, Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale), Oct. 22, 1995, at 6A ("Developer Donald Trump says the island is 'great visually, great artistically and great for security' - conjuring visions of a moated, high-rise community for the mega-rich.").
While this action raises a multitude of issues of public concern, the Court addresses only two on the instant applications: first, whether Plaintiffs have standing to maintain this action and, second, whether Plaintiffs have established that preliminary injunctive relief is warranted. The Court examines each in turn below.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
The Court first confronts the threshold justiciability question of whether Plaintiffs have standing to maintain this action. Defendants have moved to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgment, on the ground that both Plaintiffs lack standing. Plaintiffs have each submitted an affidavit supplementing and elaborating upon the allegations of the complaint concerning their standing to bring this action. These affidavits are submitted (1) in support of the motion for a preliminary injunction, (2) in opposition to Defendants' motions, and (3) in support of a motion to amend the complaint should the court deem amendment necessary for Plaintiffs to establish standing. As discussed below, the Court finds that Ebner has standing to maintain this lawsuit and thus denies Defendants' Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of standing. The Court therefore need not reach the question of Knowles' standing. The Court also grants Plaintiffs leave to amend the complaint to allege additional facts relating to standing.
A. Legal Standards
The doctrine of standing involves both constitutional and prudential considerations. The constitutional basis for the standing requirement derives from Article III of the United States Constitution, which instructs that the judicial power extends only to "Cases" or "Controversies." The Supreme Court in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 119 L. Ed. 2d 351, 112 S. Ct. 2130 (1992), articulated the Article III requirements for standing as follows:
First, the plaintiff must have suffered an "injury in fact "--an invasion of a legally-protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) "actual or imminent, not 'conjectural' or 'hypothetical[.]'" Second, there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of--the injury has to be "fairly . . . trace[able] to the challenged action of the defendant, and not . . . the result [of] the independent action of some third party not before the court." Third, it must be "likely," as opposed to merely "speculative," that the injury will be "redressed by a favorable decision."
Id., 504 U.S. at 560-61 (citations omitted).
Even if a plaintiff satisfies the constitutional requirements of standing, "'a court may nevertheless deny standing for prudential reasons.'" Comer v. Cisneros, 37 F.3d 775, 787 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Lamont v. Woods, 948 F.2d 825, 829 (2d Cir. 1991)). Prudential considerations, while not mandated by Article III, act as "rules of judicial self-restraint Sullivan v. Syracuse Housing Auth., 962 F.2d 1101, 1106 (2d Cir. 1992). Prudential considerations
suggest that a plaintiff generally may not rest his claim on the legal rights of a third-party; that courts generally should refrain from adjudicating "abstract questions of wide public significance" which amount to "generalized grievances"; and that the interest asserted by the plaintiff should be "arguably within the zone of interests to be protected or regulated by the statute or constitutional guarantee in question."