To The Editor:
The editors of the Queens Tribune are to be commended for their recognition that public parkland is for people and not real estate developers, and for a clear and forceful opposition to a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping mall adjacent to Citi Field, which is parkland and part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
The New York State Appellate Division: First Department ruled unanimously against the developers and the matter is now in the hands of the New York State Court of Appeals, which heard oral arguments on the case on April 25. I am one of the plaintiffs in the case and I was present during the oral argument before the Court of Appeals. One can never predict how the court will rule, but it did appear to me a number of judges on the court seemed skeptical that the developers could construct almost anything they wanted on the parkland.
I would be remiss if I failed to respond to that part of the Tribune article that made reference to Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who claims she has been fighting for affordable housing, schools and other resources at the site—the site she is referring to is Willets Point and not the Citi Field parking lot, the site of the proposed mega mall. Nonsense. She is, in fact, public enemy number one when it comes to parkland and the 2008 Willets Point redevelopment plan. When that plan was approved in 2008, it dealt solely with Willets Point and had nothing at all to do with a mega shopping mall at Citi Field—and, indeed, the subject at that time did not even exist.
The credibility of the developers has as much value as that of a bucket of warm spit. They never intended to construct the development. What they wanted was a gambling casino and, when that failed, it remained dormant until they came up with an attempt to steal parkland through the construction of a mega shopping mall, claiming they needed the money they would make with the mall in order to construct the 2008 Willets Point plan.
The developers are multibillionaire real estate moguls who, when all is said and done, only care about the mall—and not Willets Point. This is evident by the fact that the deal they extracted from the city placed Willets Point on the back burner until 2025, some 17 years after approval of the 2008 plan. The deal also provided that the developers could walk away from any affordable housing by forfeiting $35 million, an amount that to these billionaires is akin to the tip one gives to the youngsters who deliver your groceries. And walk they will because all they care about is the mall.
Indeed, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz is already talking about professional soccer and hockey stadiums at Willets Point. This clearly does not come from Katz, but from the Mets’ Fred Wilpon. Ferreras-Copeland went along—not only with the mall and an outrageous raid on the city treasury in connection therewith, but also with no work at Willets Point until 2025 and a walk-away from affordable housing. Since she considers real estate moguls her constituents—and not the little people—she should exchange her Council seat for that of a real estate lobbyist.
Benjamin M. Haber,