A year ago, NYU's 2031 Expansion Death Star seemed unstoppable. Having zapped the opposition of local residents and the Community Board, the university’s scheme to transform Greenwich Village by cramming 2 million square feet of new development into two square blocks cleared its final administrative hurdle with overwhelming support from City Council last July.

But now NYU’s imperial destiny appears somewhat less manifest. The university’s leadership has endured a season of real estate scandals, Senatorial inquiries, and rolling no-confidence votes by its own faculty. And the expansion plan that seemed so certain last summer is now tied up in court, as opponents argue that the city wrongfully approved it.

Yesterday, the expansion plan’s opponents, including celebrity Village residents like Padma Lakshmi, packed the courtroom of Judge Donna Mills in New York Supreme Court to hear final oral arguments on their challenge.

Randy Mastro, a former deputy mayor and a lawyer for the plan's opponents, spoke first. “This project is so sweeping,” Mastro told Judge Mills, “it will change the historic character of the neighborhood for the worse.”

Sure, the planned expansion used to be even bigger before it was scaled back, Mastro said, but “That’s like comparing Godzilla to King Kong. They’re both monsters.”

More importantly, Mastro argued, the City Council broke the law when it approved the plan last summer. “The law in our state is that a municipality cannot alienate a dedicated park without prior approval from the state legislature,” Maestro said. There are four parks—Mercer Playground, the Mercer-Houston Dog Run, LaGuardia Corner Gardens, and LaGuardia Park—that will be swallowed up by the construction, but the state legislature never signed off on the plan.

Lawyers for the City and for NYU countered that those parks aren’t really parks—they’re not formally dedicated and aren’t listed as parks on official maps. But Mastro argued the law also covers implicitly dedicated parks. Since these spaces have been used as parks for decades, are listed on the parks website and maintained by Parks and Recreation staff, and are plastered with the Parks logo, they’re covered as well, he said.

The challengers to the expansion plan, which include the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, and Assemblymember Deborah Glick, among many others, have several other claims beyond the parks argument. They say the environmental review was mishandled, that the approval violated historic-preservation laws and open-space laws, and that Speaker Christine Quinn violated open meeting laws when she expelled a rambunctious audience during the City Council vote. “I hope people look at her activities,” Jim Walden, another lawyer for the opponents to the expansion plan, said after the hearing. “She fundamentally overreached.”

A NYC Law Department spokesperson counters, "The NYU plan will yield a pedestrian-friendly mix of public open spaces and academic, residential, and retail uses on the site of two Robert Moses-era superblocks. This lawsuit is a desperate effort to block a thorough and publicly vetted plan that is good for NYU, the local community, and the City's educational and economic future. The claims are long on embellished rhetoric and short on the facts, and we're aggressively seeking to have them dismissed."

Judge Mills gave all parties two weeks to file further arguments. After that, she’s expected to decide on the City’s motion to dismiss some of the claims and then rule on whatever claims remain.

Nick Pinto is a freelance writer living in New York. Read his story from last week about veterans on trial for breaking the curfew at lower Manhattan's Vietnam memorial.