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Westway Backers Plan Appeal To Save Project

August 8, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ A federal judge says he will bar the state from building a multibillion- dolla r highway project intended to spur economic rebirth on Manhattan’s West Side.

U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Griesa ruled Wednesday that the Army Corps of Engineers, which gave the Westway project a green light earlier this year, had acted arbitrarily and ″without reasonable basis.″

Griesa, who in 1982 blocked construction on environmental grounds, ruled there is no point in allowing Westway to go any further. Griesa said he will issue a permanent injunction forbidding federal agencies from approving or financing Westway and barring the state from building it.

The decision ″cannot and should not be allowed to stand,″ said Col. Fletcher H. Griffis, the regional Corps official who approved Westway.

″Our findings were not arbitrary and capricious, and were based on a reasoned record. They were only reached after an extensive process of consultation with experts, careful sampling and study. I am most surprised that the judge believed otherwise.″

Griffis said he will ask his superiors to appeal.

Gov. Mario Cuomo also promised to appeal, and Mayor Edward I. Koch said he would do ″whatever is legally permissible″ to save the project.

Workers at the Clean Air Campaign, one of many environmentould tunnel beneath a 169-acre landfill in the river, while parkland, apartments and offices would top the new real estate.

Official estimates put the cost at somewhat more than $2 billion, to be paid out of the federal highway trust fund. But critics say Westway ould cost up to $4 billion.

The project’s opponents charged the Hudson River landfill, the key element of the project, would bury a shoreline vital to the survival of young striped bass, a valuable sport and commercial fish.

After conducting environmental studies ordered by Griesa in 1982, the Corps concluded last year that Westway would have only a minor impact on striped bass populations. Those findings, released in November, contrasted with a draft report which six months earlier had said the project would have a ″significant adverse impact″ on the fish.

That change became a central issue in a two-month trial before Griesa which ended last month. Griffis and other Corps officials acknowledged the scientific data used in both reports was similar but said the agency’s position never shifted despite the changes in wording. Griesa flatly rejected that argument, calling it ″incredible.″

Griesa also criticized Griffis for classifying Westway as a redevelopment project and approving it on those grounds, after the Corps’ environmental studies had considered Westway chiefly as a highway project.

″The (Corps’ environmental report) should have, but did not, state that Westway is not needed for transportation purposes; that transportation needs can be satisfied by the existing roadway improved at a cost of $50 million; that the reason for the Westway landfill project, estimated to cost $2 billion, is redevelopment,″ the judge wrote.

Westway opponents said Wednesday they will launch a new drive to have New York officials ″trade in″ the federal highway money for the project and receive additional mass transit funding instead.

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