Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Willets West case dismissed; attorney issues official statement

Justice Manuel Mendez, NYS Supreme Court, NY District, has issued his decision to dismiss the lawsuit brought by plaintiffs Sen. Tony Avella, City Club of New York, Queens Civic Congress and others, challenging the plan of Queens Development Group LLC to construct a 1.4 million square foot mega-mall on 40+ acres of Queens parkland.
Justice Manuel Mendez, who has
decided that the Willets West mega-mall
can be built on 40+ acres of Queens
parkland. Photo by Rafael Fern├índez.
Source: http://www.impactony.com/
tag/nueva-york-2/page/2/#sthash.IgES8I9s.
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Justice Mendez concludes that the 1961 authorization to construct Shea Stadium also allows construction of the mega-mall on parkland.

Below is the official statement of John Low-Beer, attorney for plaintiffs, concerning the decision of Justice Manuel Mendez to dismiss the case:

"Plaintiffs believe that the decision misunderstands the common law doctrine that prohibits any nonpark use of parkland without the specific and explicit approval of the State Legislature.  The State Legislature, when it passed the 1961 law permitting the construction of Shea Stadium, did not intend to allow construction of a shopping mall.  That law did not allow the construction of anything except a stadium and related facilities on the site.  Plaintiffs will appeal, and believe that this decision will be reversed on appeal."

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Avella starts petition to stop mall

Sen. Avella's online PETITION to prevent the Willets West mall is here:

Stop the illegal taking of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park

Press article:

Avella starts petition in bid to halt Willets Point mall

Op-Ed: City overlooks law in Willets Point project

The following Op-Ed was published by attorney John Low-Beer and State Senator Tony Avella was published by the Daily News:

While the Willets West project, which would consist of a megamall with over 200 retail stores built directly adjacent to Citi Field, may be a developer’s idea of the best thing since sliced bread, the city cannot brazenly ignore the law in giving away 47 acres of parkland for this development.

Courts across the state have long recognized that cities and other governmental entities hold their parks in trust for the public, and cannot sell or lease these valuable resources without a specific law from the state Legislature authorizing such action. This rule is intended to ensure that parkland is not given over for private or commercial purposes without the consent of the people, as represented by their Legislature. No such law has been enacted here.

Listening to the spin from the city’s and the developers’ attorneys in State Supreme Court last week, including former New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith Kaye, it is abundantly clear that the city believes it has no obligation to follow the law or protect the parkland that belongs to current and future generations of Queens residents.

The developers and the city painted a beautiful picture of a new community in Willets Point; however, their focus is on the megamall to be built on parkland, not on the housing which must wait, they say, until 2026. Even then, they are under no enforceable obligation to build it, and if, as seems to be the case, it is not sufficiently profitable, they will not do so.

The developers and the city believe this new megamall will provide all the recreation necessary for Queens residents. While shopping may well be a national pastime on par with baseball, as they argued, it does not need government help, nor should it be allowed to displace a family’s ability to enjoy a simple game of tag, or even a ball game, free from commercialization in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The city’s actions here raise fundamental issues more important than just a shopping mall they have real ramifications in every corner of the five boroughs, especially for anyone concerned with the city’s democratic process, the commercialization of parkland and overdevelopment in our neighborhoods.

We live in a society of laws, and the ends no matter how desirable they may be cannot justify the means that bypassing the legally required consent of the people.

The city must be held accountable and the community must have its say. A more transparent process should commence promptly one that includes the residents and business owners of Queens, as well as all the affected Community Boards (not only those adjacent to Willets Point), the Planning Commission, the City Council, and ultimately, the state Legislature.

State Sen. Tony Avella represents the 11th Senate District in Queens and John Low-Beer is the lead plaintiffs’ attorney fighting the Willets Point Development Project.