• December 19, 2014
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Queens Chronicle

Willets Pt. lawsuit in hands of court

Claims development project is illegal

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Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:53 am, Thu Aug 7, 2014.

A lawsuit to stop the giveaway of more than 47 acres to developers of the Willets West mega mall was to be heard Wednesday at state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

The lawsuit was filed by state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), the City Club of New York, a good government organization, the Queens Civic Congress, Willets Point United and nearby residents and business owners.

The lawsuit challenges the legality of the disposition of the land, now part of the Citi Field parking lot in Flushing Meadows Park. It claims that it is illegal to build there without obtaining parkland alienation legislation from the state and without getting approval for the 1.4 million-square-foot mall before going through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

WPU, a group of business and land owners in the affected area, said on its website that members are confident that the city’s claim that a 1961 amendment to the Administrative Code implemented to build Shea Stadium allowing the developers to proceed “will turn out to be just as bogus and unreliable as the administrations’s ... other past false claims pertaining to the Willets Point project.”

According to Avella, the lawsuit seeks to invalidate approvals already granted to the project and calls for a permanent injunction to prevent construction of the mall. He claims the city neglected to obtain any zoning for this unzoned park area.

The Willets Point redevelopment plan was the brainchild of the Bloomberg administration, but was altered several times without going through the ULURP. It involves removing the businesses in the 126th Street area across from Citi Field, cleaning the area of contaminants and building the mall.

On the 126th Street side, plans call for constructing a hotel, restaurants and retail space and additional parking while the mall is being built. The project is being developed by the Queens Development Group, made up of Sterling Equities and Related Companies. Sterling is the real estate firm controlled by the owners of the Mets.

Future plans include building affordable housing and new ramps to the Van Wyck Expressway.

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