The New York State Court of Appeals has ruled against Willets West, a proposed commercial development at the former site of Shea Stadium.
Slated for land that includes the former Shea Stadium parcel, Willets West was conceived by the Queens Development Group–which features Sterling Equities and the real estate firm Related Companies–to develop the site next to Citi Field, the current home of the New York Mets. A lawsuit against the development contended that the developers did not have proper clearance for their proposed of use of the site, and the case was most recently considered by the state’s Court of Appeals.
The court issued its ruling on Tuesday, and sided with the plaintiffs. In its 5-1 ruling against the development, the court stated that the defendants are not permitted to develop Willets West on a site that is designated as parkland, and needed the approval of the state legislature. More from Courthouse News Service:
“Defendants’ interpretation of the statute would permit the conversion of the parkland into a second Times Square or Wall Street, which is decidedly not evidenced in the statutory language,” [judge Rowan] Wilson wrote. “Only the state Legislature has the power to alienate parkland for purposes other than those for which they have been designated.”
While the majority acknowledged that remediation of Willets Point is a laudable goal, “the text of the statute and its legislative history flatly refute the proposition that the Legislature granted the City the authority to construct a development such as Willets West in Flushing Meadows Park.”
Judge Janet DiFiore, the only dissenter, wrote that “Willets West is designed to achieve the legislative objectives laid out expressly in the statute — improvement of trade and commerce and the promotion of recreation, entertainment, amusement, and cultural betterment.”
State Sen. Tony Avella, who represents the area, seemed thrilled with the decision. “Today’s decision was a resounding victory for the public trust doctrine and residents across New York State,” he said in a statement. “In a city where public land is in short supply, simply handing over parkland would be an absolute disgrace and a betrayal of the public trust. This victory sets a precedent for decades to come that our government cannot give away our parkland or be complicit in a developer’s heist of public land.”
Queens Development Group was less than thrilled, saying in an email: “We are disappointed with the court’s decision, which further delays a project that will reverse 100 years of pollution, create thousands of good-paying jobs and turn vacant lots into a vibrant community.
This ruling affirmed a previous decision by an Appellate court in 2015.
Shea Stadium hosted its final game for the Mets in 2008, and demolition of the ballpark was completed in 2009. The site has since served as a parking lot.