An apathetic public is a hack politician’s best friend. That cannot be said of a group of concerned citizens who took on former Mayor Bloomberg, the City Council, the City Planning Commission, former Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, the Wilpons of the Mets ballclub and their affiliates Sterling Equities and Related Companies, who are for all practical purposes a cabal trying to usurp a large portion of Flushing Meadows Corona parkland that houses a parking field so private developers can construct a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping mall. The Appellate Division: First Department of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, in a unanimous decision, hit a home run in holding the proposed development was not sanctioned by law.
In heralding the court’s decision, the Queens Chronicle’s July 9 editorial, “A major victory, just outside Citi Field,” pointed out the developers’ claim that the 1961 law that allowed the construction of Shea Stadium also authorized the mega-mall was nonsense, as indeed it was.
Equally nonsensical were the claims by the developers that they could not proceed with the 2008 Willets Point plan without the mega-mall to generate the necessary money. The developers are billionaires, and the claim they needed a mall to make money is the height of absurdity. While accepting the 2008 plan, it is evident they never had any intention to pursue it, but only to use it as a wedge for other purposes.
Not only did Bloomberg, the City Council, the City Planning Commission and Marshall approve this charade, but they rewarded the developers with the property for $1, millions in taxpayer subsidies and the right to forfeit $34 million and walk away from any obligation to construct affordable housing, which was the lynchpin in the 2008 plan to begin with. $34 million dollars for these billionaire developers is tantamount to the tip one gives the youngster who delivers your groceries. Make no mistake once they had a mega mall, they would walk. Equally outrageous was Bloomberg’s saying Willets Point was a blight and had to go, when it was the city that caused the blight, collecting sewer rent when there were no sewers and letting the infrastructure fail.
These officials’ complicity in this sordid municipal episode would cause the infamous Boss Tweed to tip his hat in admiration. Mayor de Blasio has remained silent on the subject. There now exists a good opportunity for him to demonstrate to the public whether there be any real difference between himself and Bloomberg.
Benjamin M. Haber