The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sidney H. Stein, U.S. District Judge
Plaintiffs -- the Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Association and five residents of the Manhattan neighborhood known as Hell's Kitchen -- brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 7604(a)(1)(A) to challenge a January 2005 amendment to the New York City Zoning Resolution that allegedly violates both the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7601, et seq., and the State Implementation Plan ("SIP") that was adopted pursuant to that statute. Plaintiffs contend that the January 2005 zoning amendment was essential to the subsequent approval of a redevelopment project for the area in Manhattan known as Hudson Yards. Under plaintiffs' theory, the Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (the "FGEIS") for the Hudson Yards project was based on faulty assumptions regarding parking because the rezoning amendment was unlawful. In turn, because of those faulty assumptions, the FGEIS failed to disclose potential traffic, transit, air pollution, and noise impacts. As a result, plaintiffs contend that approval of the redevelopment project violated New York's State Environmental Quality Review Act ("SEQRA") and New York City's Environmental Quality Review ("CEQR") legislation, and therefore the project cannot lawfully proceed.
Defendants have moved to dismiss the second amended complaint based on the theory that this action is barred in light of the discontinuance with prejudice of a separate action that was previously brought in New York State Supreme Court, New York County. That action -- in which many of the same plaintiffs challenged the Hudson Yards rezoning in an Article 78 proceeding -- was discontinued in December 2005 by New York State Supreme Court Justice Herman Cahn. See Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Ass'n v. N.Y. City Dep't of City Planning, No. 112368/04, 2005 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 3606 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Dec. 7, 2005).
As set forth more fully below, because the discontinuance of the Article 78 proceeding in state court was not a final judgment on the merits, it does not preclude the federal court action before this Court and defendants' motion to dismiss this action is accordingly denied.
A. Litigation in State Court
On December 23, 2004, the Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Association, Martin Treat, Meta Brunzema, Dana Turner, Daniel Gutman, Rudolf Samandarov, and Madison Square Garden, L.P. ("the Article 78 petitioners") filed an Article 78 petition in New York State Supreme Court to challenge the FGEIS.
In their petition, the Article 78 petitioners alleged that the FGEIS violated SEQRA and CEQR because it failed to disclose certain significant environmental impacts of the Hudson Yards project. (Declaration of Stephen L. Kass dated August 29, 2005, Ex. F, Verified Amended Petition.) In particular, the petitioners asserted that the FGEIS failed to assess adequately the adverse environmental impact that would result from "the construction of a new football stadium for the New York Jets and several associated actions to rezone and redevelop" the 42-block Hudson Yards area. (Id. ¶ 1.) In addition, the petitioners alleged FGEIS deficiencies on several other topics, including the impact of the Hudson Yards project on traffic (id. ¶¶ 4-8, 58-100, 149, 171-74), parking (id. ¶¶ 9, 99 ), air quality (id. ¶¶ 10, 102-12, 143-45, 147, 175-77), noise (id. ¶¶ 10, 113-15, 178 ), sewage (id. ¶¶ 116-18, 179), aesthetics (id. ¶¶ 119-24), pedestrian conditions (id. ¶¶ 133-35), residential displacement (id. ¶¶ 138a-i), emergency vehicles (id. ¶ 140), transit (id. ¶¶ 59-85, 95, 142, 154), storm water (id. ¶ 148), and drinking water (id. ¶ 180). The petitioners also claimed that the FGEIS failed to respond to comments about the conformity of the Hudson Yards project with the Clean Air Act and New York's SIP. (Id. ¶ 144)
In response to the Article 78 petition, as amended in January of 2005, the New York City Department of City Planning and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority submitted a six-volume administrative record, numerous technical affidavits, and a memorandum of law. However, before Justice Cahn issued a decision, the proposed Jets stadium was dropped from the Hudson Yards project. The Article 78 petitioners then moved to discontinue the proceeding, withoutprejudice. The Department of City Planning and the MTA did not oppose a discontinuance, but sought that it instead be made withprejudice. By Opinion and Order dated December 7, 2005, Justice Cahn directed that "these proceedings, addressed to the [FGEIS] that is their subject, are discontinued, with prejudice." Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Ass'n v. N.Y. City Dep't of City Planning, No. 112368/04, 2005 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 3606, at *11 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Dec. 7, 2005).
B. Litigation in Federal Court
Plaintiffs initiated this action on May 18, 2005 while the state court Article 78 proceeding was sub judice.*fn1 Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint in this action later in 2005; certain defendants then moved to dismiss the action as against them for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and other defendants simultaneously moved to dismiss the action on the grounds that this Court should abstain from deciding the action because of the pendency of the state Article 78 petition. In March 2007 -- after the Article 78 proceeding had been discontinued by Justice Cahn -- this Court denied the motions to dismiss the federal action. The Court denied the Rule 12(b)(6) motion on the grounds that plaintiffs had adequately pled a violation of the Clean Air Act and were seeking prospective relief to remedy an alleged violation of federal law. The Court also denied the motion to abstain because there was no longer any pending state court action. Accordingly, both motions to dismiss the federal action were denied. Defendants have now moved to dismiss the federal action pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) on the basis of res judicata.
A party may seek to dismiss a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim on the basis that the claim is barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion, also known as res judicata. In deciding such a motion, the court may consider both the face of complaint and matters of which the court may take judicial notice, such as a prior court decision. See Conopco, Inc. v. Roll Int'l, 231 F.3d 82, 86 (2d Cir. 2000); Pani v. Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, 152 F.3d 67, 75 (2d Cir. 1998) ("It is well ...