East Side Story
Environmental lawyer David Paget has written his name on the city—once, literally.
At New Yankee Stadium, he says, there’s a now-hidden girder “that I signed along with
about 3,000 construction workers. So when I go there with my grandkids, it’s ‘Grandpa,
where’s your signature?’ ‘Well, you’d have to remove ...’”
Paget’s firm, Sive, Paget & Riesel, is the oldest environmental law boutique in America, a
27-lawyer throwback amid the global megafirms in the steel and glass forest of Manhattan.
It’s credited with helping create dozens of New York City landmarks: the redevelopment
of 42nd Street and Governors Island; Battery Park City; Brooklyn Bridge Park; Atlantic
Yards, including the Barclays Center, and many others (see sidebar on page 27). His current
cases include the new $4 billion Tappan Zee Bridge, and Pier 55, a public park pier with
performing arts venues in Chelsea.
This is how Paget describes his process: A developer comes in with a plan, and Paget
decides what needs to be reviewed, who needs to approve it, and in what order. Is an EIS
(environmental impact statement) needed? Or can the project get by with a less rigorous
EA (environmental assessment)? What are the considerations? Traffic? Air or water quality?
Noise? Safety? Land use? Community character? Will more housing be needed? Or schools?
Or day care?
David Paget survived Lower East Side gangs to
become New York’s go-to environmental lawyer
BY TIMOTHY HARPER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LUIGI CIUFFETELLI