They’re either killing New York or saving it

Crain’s NY
July 27, 20015

Behold the masters of derailing projects in the city—and the playbook they use to drive developers crazy.

The owners of the New York Mets planned to build a shopping mall in a parking area next to Citi Field. They expected resistance—there always is in New York—but not from the son of the architect who helped invent the shopping mall.

Unlike his father, Michael Gruen doesn’t create shopping malls. He stops them.

In early July, a state judge sided with Mr. Gruen and ruled that the mall, Willets West, could not proceed because the parking lot it would replace was technically parkland.

“Parks are parks,” said Mr. Gruen.

Ever since Jane Jacobs held a ceremony to celebrate killing Robert Moses’ Lower Manhattan

Expressway in 1958, residents of varying stripes have gummed up the works for developers across the city. Depending on one’s point of view, they are either saviors of old New York or NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) cranks.

Mr. Gruen is among a handful who have emerged as modern masters of the trade. They cut their teeth fighting the megaprojects of the Bloomberg years and have perfected the arts of public relations, community organizing and legal action to scuttle development. With City Hall now run by a mayor fixated on building towers with affordable housing, they are digging in their heels for a new series of battles…

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