Bloomberg-preferred developer the Related Companies in partnership with Sterling Equities, the real estate firm controlled by the owner of the Mets, have plans to build a 1.4 million-square-foot mall and parking garage. The majority of the land for the $3 billion Willets Point project would be taken from parkland adjacent to Citi Field currently used for parking. The administration is attempting to get away with not alienating the land as is required under state law in order to use parkland for non-park purposes.
The city is desperately trying to rely on a 1961 bill that never replaced parkland used for Shea Stadium.
If the 40-plus acres being proposed for mall use are no longer needed for parking then it should revert back to its original recreational use. Our elected officials should be pushing for that instead of giving away our public spaces to the highest bidder.
Proponents of the project have sought to characterize the site as decrepit and “under-utilized.” One of the more absurd MLS claims is that it’s a water body and that only 1 acre of grass would be used.
According to that philosophy, our water features, which make up fully one-third of all city parkland, are okay to develop. Besides providing pleasant views, the fountain area is used for jogging, as well as for wildlife.
Unlike the Willets Point deal the city is requiring MLS to replace park land. But these replacement park facilities would not provide the same usefulness, location or value.
As part of a $500 million expansion, the U.S. Tennis Association plans to build a 15,000-seat stadium and an 8,000-seat stadium, as well as two parking garages adding 500 spaces.
The city Economic Development Corp. is also irresponsibly attempting to push this massive project through without conducting a full environmental review of all three projects, needed to assess the cumulative impact.
If our officials were truly interested in creating jobs, start by taking care of the park. For decades people have fought for the city to care for this vital resource.
Elected officials should be supporting the hiring of desperately needed permanent workers to maintain, program and secure the park. They have continuously allocated a fraction of the park funds needed and instead have been increasing making deals that commercially exploit them.