Group Can’t Sue to Block Razing of Penguin Arena

     (CN) – Preservation Pittsburgh cannot prevent demolition of the city’s Civic Arena, a federal judge ruled, citing lack of federal jurisdiction.
     The nonprofit advocacy group had argued that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) would have to issue an environmental impact statement on the demolition because of alleged ties to a transportation project. Preservation Pittsburg said the redevelopment might use funds from to reconnect the site to adjacent streets.
     But U.S. District Court Judge David Cercone disagreed that this gave the court jurisdiction to intervene.
     “The mere possibility of future funding of the local Civic Arena redevelopment project does not create a federal nexus,” he wrote. “Moreover, there is no evidence that such possible future involvement by the FHWA will be of any significance. Absent the requisite involvement in the project by a federal agency, the project simply does not involve major federal action.”
     Built in 1961, the Civic Arena served as the home of the Pittsburg Penguins hockey team from 1967 to 2010. In 2007 the local and state government agreed with the team owner to build a new home for the Penguins and redevelop the Civic Arena site.
     In 2001, however, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission determined that the Civic Arena was eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historical Places. As such, the Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA) of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County needed to consult with City of Pittsburgh Planning Commission before demolishing or altering the property.
     On the same day that the commission approved plans to demolish Civic Arena in October 2010, Preservation Pittsburgh filed a nomination with the city’s Historic Review Commission to designate the building as historic.
     Preservation Pittsburgh later filed suit, arguing that the commission was using demolition as “anticipatory demolition” to avoid the review procedures mandated under the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). It claimed the plans required an environmental impact statement and an analysis of alternatives to demolition of the structure.
     Cercone ruled to dismiss on Sept. 9, noting that the demolition of Civic Arena wasn’t anticipatory because SEA had not sought federal funding for the redevelopment project. “Even if the SEA were to apply for and/or obtain funding for part of the redevelopment, the use of federal funds in and of itself does not federalize the project for purposes of compliance with NEPA,” Cercone wrote.
     Hollywood producers have reportedly pushed for the demolition to move forward so footage can be incorporated into the upcoming Batman installment, “The Dark Knight Rises.”

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