Sunday, March 23, 2014
Protest against Flushing Meadows megamall
The groups met Senator Avella at the intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and 114th Street in Corona. Everyone then marched down, chanting “Parks are not for sale,” to a close by location on Roosevelt Avenue, overlooking the proposed site for the Mega-Mall, which is currently the CitiField Stadium parking lot.
“We stand here today to say NO to park giveaway for a billion dollar development in the City of New York,” stated Senator Tony Avella. “Community members who have gathered here today all represent many different neighborhoods throughout the entire borough of Queens, all of whom are extremely upset over the Willets West mega-mall proposal. This was a true Bloomberg era back-door policy which slipped under the radar and had virtually no community input. How can we allow such a blatant parks land grab? And without any required review or oversight. The city should be ashamed for allowing this to pass despite stern and outspoken community opposition. I am proud to stand here with these groups to say STOP. Stop the illegal land grab, stop the illegal taking of our parks.”
Mr. Geoffrey Croft of Parks Advocates stated, “Quite simply, this deal was an abuse of power. Mayor Bloomberg has so far been able to successfully seize the power from the old Board of Estimate which enabled the project to bypass ALL legal approval process. No official vote from anyone except the Mayor who gifted OUR public park away to one of the City’s most successful developers. No More! This is public parkland, this is not a dispute. It does not belong to Bloomberg or the developers – it belongs to the people of the City of new York and it must be protected. The parkland was never alienated. The City simply does not have the right to seize this parkland for these non-park purposes without the consent of the State Legislation. Parks belong to the People, NOT to private corporations.”
Mr. Richard Hellenbrecht, President of the Queens Civic Congress stated, “The Congress strongly opposes any further alienation of parkland in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The Willets West mega mall proposal is yet another gross overreach of the former Bloomberg administration. The mall will not only remove public space that is used for numerous events like circuses and disabled sports, but would create competition to nearby malls and especially harm local mom and pop stores, already struggling to stay in business.”
Mr. Michael Gruen, President of the City Club of New York added, “The City Club is very pleased to participate in this important case and to underscore that great parks are currently under grave threat in the borough of Queens and throughout the City, not just Manhattan. We must do what we can to stop the shopping mall!”
Mr. Paul Graziano, a longtime civic leader from North Flushing and co-founder of Save Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, stated his steadfast opposition to the proposed mega-mall on parkland.
"This project represents everything that's wrong about development in New York City," Graziano said. "When billionaire friends of former Mayor Bloomberg can pervert the land use process in order to steal over 40 acres of our parkland for private commercial development - without so much as a public hearing - it is our duty as citizens and taxpayers to stop what will clearly be a terrible scenario should this be allowed to proceed. This park is the backyard, the recreational space for tens of thousands of people every weekend. While this particular part of the park is used for parking, it is also used for many other park purposes during the year. The city should be spending money helping Roosevelt Avenue merchants revitalize their commercial district, rather than giving away a piece of our public parkland valued at over $1 billion dollars."
Mr. Marty Kirchner from Queens Neighborhoods United further explained that, “The construction of a massive commercial retail center on public parkland is the anchor piece of an expansive developer-led urban overhaul of the immigrant neighborhoods of Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Flushing. Flanked by the simultaneous rezoning of commercial corridors near the expected site of the mall, and the proposed formation of a large-scale Business Improvement District along Roosevelt Avenue, the sprawling Willets West mega-mall and its related development projects will cause such dramatic rent hikes and traffic congestion as to permanently displace ethnic small businesses and immigrant working families from the surrounding area.”
Mr. Benjamin Haber, a long time parks activist, stated “Today’s New York Times reports Mayor de Blasio’s appointment of Mitchell Silver as the new Commissioner of Parks. He described Mr. Silver as a visionary who shared his commitment to making sure that parks work for all our people. Actions speak louder than words, Mr. Mayor. Bill de Blasio now has the opportunity to distance himself from Bloomberg’s abysmal record and to not contest the pending lawsuit that would require compliance with ULURP and legislative approval for park alienation.”
All of the speakers, including Senator Avella, are petitioners in a pending lawsuit filed against the City of New York which seeks a declaratory judgment to invalidate approvals already granted to the project. The lawsuit also seeks a declaratory judgment for a permanent injunction to prevent the construction of a megamall on City parkland without respondents having obtained required State legislative authorization and without respondents having obtained any zoning for this un-zoned park area.
The petitioners named in the lawsuit also include not for profit organizations, taxpayers, businesses in Willets Point and on nearby Roosevelt Avenue, as well as individuals who are user of Flushing Meadows Corona Park and whose residences overlook the portion of the Park at issue; all of whom stand against the mega-mall project.
Senator Avella concluded, “We now call on Mayor Bill de Blasio to tell us if he really meant what he said during his campaign because once you take away this park land, you can never bring it back again. By allowing developers to build a mega-mall at this location, the City will also take away countless jobs, as they have already started doing at the nearby Iron Triangle with respect to auto shop tenants, and cause a tremendous burden on the local mom and pop stores in the area. PARKS are simply NOT FOR SALE.”