Avella Files Lawsuit Against Willets Point

BY JOE MARVILLI
Staff Writer

In the latest move in the ongoing Willets Point saga, State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has filed a lawsuit to prevent the development of the megamall by Citi Field.

The Senator’s complaint alleges that the project was approved without going through the State Legislature, as the site the mall will be on qualifies as parkland. According to the City Club of New York, a partner in the lawsuit, the “public trust” doctrine protects all parkland throughout the State against any form of transfer or introduction of non-park uses without consent of the Legislature.

The lawsuit is asking the New York County Supreme Court to declare that the shopping mall project is illegal and to prevent further steps toward its construction without compliance with applicable law and without imposing appropriate zoning regulations on the site. The complaint also said that the project had moved forward without customary public review.

Although the acres of parkland have been occupied by Shea Stadium since 1964 and then by Citi Field’s parking lot starting in 2009, the complaint argues that it does not allow the City to further transform the parkland without State approval.

“Basically, one of the main points is the City is violating State law. It is a huge amount of parkland,” Avella said. “If you give it away for commercial uses, I think it’s disgraceful you can do it without State approval.”

Besides City Club, the Senator has also partnered with New York City Park Advocates, Paul Graziano, a historic preservationist and co-founder of SaveFMCP.org, and civic leader Ben Haber as plaintiffs in the case. John Low-Beer, Lorna Goodman and Meredith Feinman will represent the plaintiffs.

Avella said he was hopeful the new administration would bring a different angle to the issue.

“I have high hopes for the new administration. Hopefully, the lawsuit will bring the new mayor’s attention to this issue,” he said. “Hopefully, the new mayor will take a fresh look at this whole project.”

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, jmarvilli@queenstribune.com, or @Joey788.