Justice Manuel Mendez denied the claim from the plaintiffs, which included State Senator Tony Avella and NYC Park Advocates, that the development violated the “public trust” doctrine designed to protect public parkland from development and ruled that the Citi Field parking lot could in fact be built upon.
A spokesperson for the Queens Development Corporation (QDC), the firm in charge of developing the project, released a statement following the ruling applauding the judge.
“It is a significant step forward in the effort to create a new Willets and reverse 100 years of pollution,” the statement read. “This $3 billion private investment - the largest investment in Queens' history - will revitalize an area that has been neglected for far too long, and will include the creation of thousands of jobs and affordable housing.”
In agreement with QDC, a development group comprised of both Sterling Equities and Related Companies, the judge ruled that the provisionary law that allowed the construction of Shea Stadium in 1961 also enabled the construction of the proposed mall on Citi Field's parking lot.
"Today’s decision is a win for Willets Point and all of Queens,” the spokesperson said. “The ruling is unequivocal in saying that the project is consistent with state law and rejecting every argument to the contrary.“
Plaintiff attorney John Low-Beer said the ruling undermines the original intention of the 1961 provision and that they plan to appeal.
"Plaintiffs believe that the decision misunderstands the common law doctrine that prohibits any non-park use of parkland without the specific and explicit approval of the state legislature,” Low-Beer said. “Plaintiffs do not believe that the state legislature, when it passed the law permitting the construction of Shea Stadium, intended to allow construction of a shopping mall."
Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, added that the community should be concerned for the future of other park space.
"The decision flies in the face of the Public Trust Doctrine and ignores long-established case law,” Croft said.