A state Supreme Court judge on Thursday cleared a roadblock for Stony Brook University in its quest to build a hotel on campus, lifting a temporary restraining order which prevented tree clearing on the property in question.
The university can now legally proceed with tree removal, a first step in building the controversial Hilton Garden Inn. An agreement had been reached between both sides on Oct. 8 to temporarily hold off on cutting down trees at the site. Hon. Ralph T. Gazzillo lifted that on Thursday.
The lawsuit concerns an 11-acre parcel of land, located east of the parking garage, near the university's administration building and main entrance. The proposed hotel would be a five-story, 135-room, LEED-certified hotel with conference space and other amenities. According to the university's website, the hotel is needed to "accommodate the thousands of guests and visitors who attend University events and activities every year."
The plaintiffs' attorney, George Locker, said he was disappointed with the decision.
"It is disappointing that the university can cut the forest and if we prevail, which I expect we will, it will be a long wait for the forest to grow back," he said.
Assistant attorney general Susan Connolly, who represents the university, stated in court that out of the 11 acres to be used, 3.5 acres would be developed or landscaped and that the rest would stay as it is today.
"The university and the developer are interested in proceeding with the hotel project, but as yet have not discussed the court's ruling," university spokesperson Lauren Sheprow said.
The suit was filed by the Stony Brook Environmental Conservancy, conservancy member Muriel Weyl, and alumnus Michelle Pizer in January. Neither were in court Thursday.
"The judge will decide the underlying merits of the case and the unlawful use of state property," Locker said. "Stony Brook University students have learned that university presidents can ignore the law."