A lawsuit will be filed tomorrow, Feb. 7, in an attempt to prevent the construction of a shopping mall in the Citi Field parking lot, which is technically part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the Queens Chronicle has learned.
The suit will be brought by state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Whitestone), City Club, NYC Park Advocates and a number of Corona businesses and residents, according to a source who has seen the papers that will be filed.
None of the reported plaintiffs could be reached immediately, and the source did not say what the legal reasoning behind the lawsuit is. But the fact that the mall will be built on parkland has been a point of criticism for those opposed to the project, which is part of the overall planned redevelopment of Willets Point.
The city, which made a deal with the developers to build on the parkland, says it is legal under an agreement signed with the Mets in 1961. Citi Field sits within the park, as did its predecessor, Shea Stadium.
The Willets Point redevelopment plan was hatched by the Bloomberg administration and, after being modified in several respects, was approved by the last Queens borough president, Helen Marshall, and the City Council last year. It involves removing the businesses that operate in the Iron Triangle, cleaning the area of contaminants, and building the mall, which will be 1.4 million square feet in size, along with a hotel, restaurants, other retail space, offices and new ramps onto and off of the Van Wyck Expressway, over a period of several years. Last on the project list is 2,500 units of new housing, though the builders, the Queens Development Group, would be able to drop that component if they pay a fine under the terms of the agreement with the city.
The remediation of the first 23 acres that would be developed under the plan is the subject of a Feb. 5 letter from Willets Point United, a coalition of Iron Triangle businesses that opposes the project, to Avella. In that letter, Gerald Antonacci of the WPU says that the city's Economic Development Corp. broke promises it made to the Queens Borough Board and Community Board 7 in its application to the state to remediate the land under the Brownfield Cleanup Program. The letter says that when the EDC applied to the state Department of Environmental Conservation to do the cleanup, it omitted several parcels within the project area, even though a top EDC official had told the Borough Board that including the entire site is an absolute requirement of the deal with the developers.
The EDC is giving the builders, developers, The Related Companies and Sterling Equities, the real estate firm controlled by the owners of the Mets, the 23 acres of public land for $1.
The Queens Chronicle could not immediately ascertain if the issue raised in the WPU letter to Avella is related to the lawsuit. The source familiar with the suit said the WPU is not one of the plaintiffs.