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Queens Chronicle

Court of Appeals to hear Willets West case

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Posted: Wednesday, November 25, 2015 12:11 pm

The Court of Appeals has decided to hear arguments on the Willets West project, four months after the state Appellate Division ruled the proposed development to be illegal.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) — who along with park advocates filed a lawsuit seeking to block the mega-development — in a statement expressed disappointment in the court's decision.

"It is unfortunate that the Willets West developers have chosen to continue this legal battle," the senator said on Wednesday. "I, along with the City Club of New York, Queens Civic Congress, NYC Park Advocates, members of Willets Point United, as well as nearby residents and business owners, know that we stand on strong legal ground, and the Appellate Court agreed. The fact of the matter is that this is parkland — it belongs to the people — and my fellow petitioners and I are confident that the Court of Appeals will issue a fair ruling."

The state's highest court will decide if the developer, Queens Development Group, can legally take land near Citi Field to build a 1.4 million-square-foot mall or uphold the appellate court's ruling that the developer cannot do so without authorization from the state Legislature, since the site is technically part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park. 

A spokesperson for Queens Development Group said in a statement, "We are extremely gratified by The New York State Court of Appeal’s decision to hear our appeal, which brings us one step closer to completing this unprecedented, private $3 billion investment in Queens and reversing 100 years of pollution while creating thousands of good-paying jobs. We are confident that when we make our case, the Court will approve the bold vision that has already won support from the City Council, the local community board and many other stakeholders.”

Avella and the activists in 2013 challenged a deal between the city and the development group — made up of the owners of the Mets and The Related Companies — that gave away 47 acres of parkland to the developers with an estimated worth of $1 billion for $1 to build the mall.

First proposed during the Bloomberg administration, the Willets West project is tied to the Willets Point redevelopment would clean up the area by the Mets' home field.

An August 2014 ruling from the state Supreme Court stated the project was legal, which the plaintiffs appealed. The appellate court handed down its unanimous decision overturning that ruling in early July.

In August, Mayor de Blasio announced he would not join the developers in the appeal to the state's highest court.

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