State's Highest Court Rules Massive Mall Planned Next to Citi Field Can No Longer Proceed

It's a big no for a massive mall planned next to Citi Field. The state's highest court has ruled Willets Point West can no longer proceed because the city didn't seek legislative approval. NY1's Gene Apodaca filed the following report.

In a 5 to 1 decision, the state's highest court sided with the opponents of the Willets West development, saying it flatly refutes the proposition that the legislature granted the city the authority to construct the controversial development.

At the center of the argument was the handing over of 46 acres of parkland to a developer to build a massive mega-mall next to Citi Field, a transaction that the court ruled needed to have legislative approval.

"Obviously, our elected officials should not be handing over billion dollar pieces of parkland for developers," said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates. "That's outrageous."

State Senator Tony Avella was one of the plaintiffs.

"Winning this case not only saves parkland, but it sends a powerful message across the entire state that parkland is not up for sale," Avella said.

The giveaway was an incentive to a deal called Willets Point East, a multibillion-dollar, 60-acre development on the other side of Citi Field. There, the Queens Development Group plans to build affordable housing, along with hotels, soccer and hockey stadiums.

A spokesperson for the group says, "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."

Although the ruling does block the developer from moving forward, the legislature can still step in and intervene.

The legislature would have to vote to use the land for Willets West for non-park purposes. It would also have to find a replacement property to designate as parkland.  

As for Willets Point East, the city says the ruling does not alter its ability to move forward there. Officials will be meeting with stakeholders in the coming weeks to determine the best path forward.  

Borough President Melinda Katz is urging the city to move forward quickly. In a statement, she says, "Willets Point redevelopment must meet the City’s critical needs and ever-growing demand as was promised long ago."

The developer says it's still studying the decision’s impact.

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