(An open letter to state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman)
For many years I and many other residents of Queens have fought to protect the integrity of Flushing Meadows Corona Park as an urban park. We successfully defeated an attempt to construct around Meadow Lake in the park a Grand Prix racetrack. We were not successful in opposing the usurpation of parkland for the USTA stadiums and their expansions. We made it clear we would oppose any attempt to place in the park a soccer or hockey stadium.
There is currently pending before the New York State Court of Appeals, our highest state court, litigation that seeks to prevent the construction of a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping mall on the parking lot adjacent to the Citi Field stadium, on the grounds the lot is on land that is part of FMCP and there can be no alienation of parkland without New York State legislative approval and the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure before the community boards whose areas touch upon the park. The developers claim that with regard to use of the Citi Field parking lot they have no obligation to seek legislative approval nor any requirement to engage in the ULURP process. While we lost our case in the lower court, our attorney, John Low-Beer, was successful before the Appellate Division First Department in having the lower court reversed and construction of the mall prohibited. The developers then appealed to the Court of Appeals.
We recently became apprised of the fact that you as attorney general of New York State have injected yourself into the litigation and are submitting an amicus curiae brief in support of the developers and their projected mega mall. We find your 11th-hour entry into this litigation indeed strange, given that at no time while the issue was being debated before the public was there any participation by you or your office. As the attorney general we expect you to be the defender of the public trust doctrine as it relates to parkland. We are certain you are familiar that in the past the AG office has invoked the public trust doctrine in the cases of Friends of Van Cortlandt Park v. City of New York and Capruso v. Village of Kings Point. We fail to understand how you differentiate a mega mall on parkland from the cited cases.
We do not know if your initiative was prompted by yourself or as the result of lobbying from the developers or at the behest of Gov. Cuomo, who in the past has sought to settle the pending litigation and permit a mall. In this connection, we think it relevant and important to take note of the fact that, according to the Board of Elections’ website, Sterling Equities, Sterling Mets LP, Related Companies, Stephen M. Ross, Kara Ross, Jeff T. Blau and Lisa Blau — all related in various ways with the developers of the mall project — have contributed to election campaigns of both you and Cuomo a total of $187,300 since 2010. That is a large amount, which raises serious questions regarding the obligation of both you and the governor to protect the interests of your constituents and not that of billionaire real estate moguls.
Benjamin M. Haber