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Natural Resources Defense Council v. Marsh

ELR Citation: 14 ELR 20035
Nos. No. 81 CV 1942 (RN), 568 F. Supp. 1387/19 ERC 1589/(E.D.N.Y., 07/21/1983)

The court rules that the Gateway National Recreation Area Act compels the Secretary of the Interior to include unused portions of Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island in the recreation area, and that the Army complied with both the Gateway Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it transferred 10 acres of the fort to the Navy for military uses.

The court first rules that the plaintiffs, who are users or potential users of the recreation area, have standing to sue, but the parties who base their claims solely on commuting difficulties do not. The court then rules that although the Gateway National Recreation Area Act declares that Fort Wadsworth will eventually be managed as part of the recreation area, the Gateway Act does not fetter the Army's power to use the land for military purposes. The Gateway Act, however, does require the Secretary of the Interior to accept any excess lands that the Army offers. Thus, the Secretary must accept the currently unused portions of the fort.

The court rules that the Army's transfer of land to the Navy was a military decision, the wisdom of which may not be questioned in court. The court further rules that the transfer was not a major federal action significantly affecting the environment, so no environmental impact statement was required under NEPA. The transfer precluded addition of some land to the recreation area but did not remove any land already in the recreation area. Although defense officials discussed the transfer before analyzing its impacts, a proper environmental review preceded the final decision to transfer.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Ross Sandler, James Thornton
Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.
122 E. 42nd St., New York NY 10168
(212) 949-0049

Daniel Riesel, Mark A. Chertok
Winer, Neuberger & Sive
425 Park Ave., New York NY 10022
(212) 421-2150

Marshall Beil
Karpatkin, Pollet, Perlmutter & Beil
32nd Floor, 708 Third Ave., New York NY 10017
(212) 557-4700

Counsel for Defendants
Patrick B. Northup, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Cthse., 225 Cadman Plaza E., Brooklyn NY 11201
(212) 330-7106

Edward J. Passarelli
Office of the General Counsel
Department of the Navy, Washington DC 20360
(202) 692-6540

Brian Koula
Office of the Solicitor
Department of the Interior, Washington DC 20240
(202) 343-7957