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STEWART PARK AND RESERVE COALITION v. SLATER
September 30, 2002
STEWART PARK AND RESERVE COALITION, INCORPORATED (SPARC); ORANGE COUNTY FEDERATION OF SPORTSMEN'S CLUBS, INC.; AND SIERRA CLUB, PLAINTIFFS,
RODNEY E. SLATER, AS UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; KENNETH R. WYKLE, AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION; HAROLD J. BROWN, AS NEW YORK DIVISION ADMINISTRATOR OF THE FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION; FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION; LOUIS R. TOMSON, AS CHAIRMAN OF THE NEW YORK STATE THRUWAY AUTHORITY; NEW WEST PAGE 220 YORK STATE THRUWAY AUTHORITY; JOSEPH H. BOARDMAN, AS COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; AND NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Randolph F. Treece, Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs bring this action pursuant to various federal and state
environmental and transportation laws. Specifically, Plaintiffs
challenge the sufficiency of the joint federal and state environmental
review regarding the proposed construction of an interstate highway
exchange between Interstate 84 ("I-84") and Drury Lane as well as
improvements to connecting roads to facilitate access to Stewart
International Airport ("Stewart Airport") pursuant to the National
Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 4321, et seq., and the
New York State Environmental Quality Review Act ("SEQRA"), N.Y. Envtl.
Conserv. Law § 8-101, et seq. Plaintiffs also allege that the Federal
Defendants violated transportation laws, including section 4(f) of the
Department of Transportation Act of 1966, 49 U.S.C. § 303, and
23 U.S.C. § 111.
The State and Federal Defendants have moved for summary judgment
pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(b). Docket Nos. 31 & 33,
respectively. Plaintiffs have cross moved for summary judgment pursuant
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Docket No. 37. The parties have consented to
have the assigned U.S. Magistrate Judge conduct any and all further
proceedings in this case, including the entry of final judgment, in
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and N.D.N.Y.L.R. 72.2. Docket No.
24. For the reasons that follow, the Federal and State Defendants'
motions are granted and Plaintiffs' motion is denied.
In 1969, the United States transferred ownership of the Stewart Air
Force Base, which was approximately 1,552 acres, to the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority ("MTA"). Gorton Aff. (Docket No. 31), ¶ 6.
The MTA acquired the air base to create Stewart Airport as a fourth major
airport to service the New York City metropolitan area. Id. The
property adjacent to Stewart Airport was identified as necessary for
transportation purposes, including airport
access and expansion as well
as compliance with Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") requirements.
Id. at ¶ 7. In 1971, the New York State Department of Transportation
("NYSDOT") was statutorily authorized to acquire 8,675 acres of land
adjacent to, and in the vicinity of, Stewart Airport for transportation
purposes. Id. The land was obtained in the name of the People of the
State of New York on behalf of the MTA and was obtained through both
purchase and eminent domain. Id. at ¶¶ 7 & 8. These 8,675 acres
became known as "Stewart Buffer Lands" or "Stewart Properties." Id.
In 1974, the MTA and the New York State Department of Environmental
Conservation ("NYSDEC") executed a revocable management agreement whereby
the NYSDEC would manage the Stewart Buffer Lands on behalf of the MTA.
Gorton Aff., ¶ 8. The agreement was terminable upon sixty (60) days
notice. Id. In 1982, jurisdiction over Stewart Airport, including the
Stewart Buffer Lands, was transferred from MTA to the NYSDOT. Id. at
¶ 11. After obtaining jurisdiction over Stewart Airport, the NYSDOT
chose to continue management of the property through NYSDEC. Id. A
portion of the Stewart Airport, i.e., Crestview Lake, has been managed by
the Town of New Windsor under a revocable license with the NYSDOT. Id.
at ¶ 22. This license expired in April 2002. Id. at ¶ 23.
In 1991, the New York State legislature ("the Legislature") directed
the New York State Thruway Authority ("NYSTA") to acquire I-84. The
Legislature transferred ownership of I-84 from the State of New York and
the NYSDOT to the NYSTA effective March 19, 1992. In 1992, the
Legislature also directed the NYSTA to undertake a project to provide
direct access to Stewart Airport from I-84. Waite Aff. (Docket No. 31),
¶¶ 8 & 10. In 1992, the NYSDOT and the federal government issued
a Final Environmental Impact Statement ("FEIS") analyzing proposals for
the development of Stewart Airport. The development project was not
implemented. Gorton Aff., ¶ 12. Intervening events, including the
1998 privatization of Stewart Airport and the permanent transfer of 5,
264 acres of the Stewart Properties rendered the 1992 FEIS obsolete.
Thus, the State and Federal Defendants prepared new project proposals for
improved access to Stewart Airport. See Def. Statement of Material Facts
(Docket No. 31), ¶¶ 11 & 14.
On December 10, 1997, the State and Federal Defendants published a
Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS")
relating to the improvement project in the Federal Register. Notices of
Scoping meetings were sent out on December 12, 1997 and two scoping
meetings were held on January 14, 1998. On April 5, 1999, a Draft
Environmental Impact Statement ("DEIS") was released. On April 9, 1998,
a Notice for a Public Hearing and availability of the DEIS was published
in the Federal Register. On May 12, 1998, a public hearing was held and
comments on the DEIS were allowed until June 1, 1999. See id. at §§
After comments were received, the State and Federal Defendants made
revisions to the DEIS. On April 14, 2000, the State and Federal
Defendants released a FEIS, which selected Alternative 5b, Option 3 as
the preferred design ("the Project"). The Project consists of: (1) a new
diamond interchange at I-84 and Drury Lane at the existing Drury Lane
overpass; (2) a new four-lane east-west connector roadway from Drury Lane
to "C" Street; (3) reconstructing "C" Street to four lanes with a
landscaped median; (4) modifications to Bruenig Road at the "Loop" in
from the Stewart Airport passenger terminal' (5) widening of Drury Lane
to four lanes
between the new I-84 interchange and the new east-west
connector roadway; and (6) improvement to and/or realignment of the
two-lane section of Drury Lane from I-84 to Route 17K and from the new
east-west connector roadway to Route 207. Gorton Aff., ¶¶ 17-18;
Nardone Aff., ¶ 4; Waite Aff., ¶¶ 13-14. On June 23, 2000, the
Federal Defendants issued a Record of Decision documenting their decision
to select Alternative 5b, Option 3. On July 11, 2000 and February 1,
2001, the State Defendants issued their Records of Decision documenting
their selection of Alternative 5b, Option 3.
Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate only
where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The moving
party bears the burden to demonstrate through "pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with
affidavits, if any," that there is no genuine issue of material fact.
F.D.I.C. v. Giammettei, 34 F.3d 51, 54 (2d Cir. 1994) (citing Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). To defeat a motion for
summary judgment, the non-movant must "set forth specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial," and cannot rest on "mere
allegations or denials" of the facts submitted by the movant.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see also Rexnord Holdings, Inc. v. Bidermann,
21 F.3d 522, 525-26 (2d Cir. 1994). When considering a motion for
summary judgment, the court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all
reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Nora Beverages, Inc.
v. Perrier Group of Am., Inc., 164 F.3d 736, 742 (2d Cir. 1998).
This action is a review of an agency decision and therefore, is
governed by the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"). See Sierra Club
v. Penfold, 857 F.2d 1307, 1315 (9th Cir. 1988). Under the APA, the
court's review is generally limited to determining whether an agency's
decision was arbitrary, capricious or not in accordance with law. See
5 U.S.C. § 706.*fn1 In determining whether an agency's decision was
arbitrary or capricious, "a court may not substitute its judgment for
that of [the] agency." Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v.
Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 216 (1971) (internal quotations and citation
omitted). Rather, the court must only determine "whether the agency's
decision `was based on a consideration of the relevant factors and
whether there has been a clear error of judgment.'" State of N.Y. Dep't
of Social Servs. v. Shalala, 21 F.3d 485, 492 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting
Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n. of the U.S. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins.
Co., 463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983)).
Within the context of NEPA and SEQRA, the scope of review is narrow.
See Strycker's Bay Neighborhood Council v. Karlem, 444 U.S. 223, 227
(1980). The court's review is limited to a determination of whether the
agency took a "hard look at environmental consequences." Robertson v.
Methow Valley Citizens Council, 490 U.S. 332, 350 (1989) (quotation marks
and citation omitted); see also Akpan v. Koch, 555 N.Y.S.2d 16, 20
(1990). NEPA does not mandate a particular result, "but simply
prescribes the necessary process." Robertson, 490 U.S. at 350 (citations
omitted). SEQRA also gives "agencies considerable latitude [in]
evaluating environmental effects and [in] choosing between alternative
measures." Akpan, 555 N.Y.S.2d at 20.
Similarly, while the requirements of section 4(f) of the Department of
Transportation Act are stringent, the court's review is limited to
determining whether the Secretary of Transportation's decision was wholly
unreasonable or whether the Secretary failed to follow the necessary
procedural requirements. See Adler v. Lewis, 675 F.2d 1085, 1091 (9th
Cir. 1982); see also National Parks & Conservation Ass'n v. F.A.A.,
998 F.2d 1523, 1532 (10th Cir. 1993).
III. Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act
Plaintiffs contend that the Secretary of the Department of
Transportation violated section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation
Act when he determined that the Stewart Buffer Lands and the Crestview
Lake Property were not entitled to section 4(f) protection.
Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act states in
The Secretary [of Transportation] may approve a
transportation . . . project . . . requiring the use
of publicly owned land of a public park, recreation
area, or wildlife and waterfowl refuge of national,
State, or local significance . . . only if . . . there
is no prudent and feasible alternative to using that
land; and the . . . project includes all possible
planning to minimize harm to the park, recreation
area, wildlife and waterfowl refuge. . . .
In order for land to be afforded section 4(f) protection, two
conditions must be met. "[F]irst, . . . the land must be publicly owned,
and second, the land must be from one of the enumerated types of publicly
owned land. . . ." National Wildlife Fed. v. Coleman, 529 F.2d 359, 370
(5th Cir. 1976); see also Geer v. FHA, 975 F. Supp. 47, 67 (D.Mass.
1997). Here, there is no dispute that the land in question is publicly
held. Indeed, it is owned by NYSDOT. The issue is whether any or all of
the Stewart Buffer Lands or the Crestview Lake Property were designated
or administered as a public park, ...