A lawsuit brought against Mayor Bill de Blasio by a Queens lawmaker regarding a park alliance will move forward after the court denied the mayor’s attempt to dismiss it last week.
Councilman Rory Lancman, who represents an area including the southern section of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, filed a lawsuit last year against the mayor and the Alliance for Flushing Meadows Corona Park that challenges the structure and funding of the alliance.
Following the court’s Feb. 16 decision to reject the mayor’s request to dismiss the case, the city must now formally answer the lawsuit’s allegations, followed by discovery proceedings.
According to the alliance’s website, the group’s mission is “to support NYC Parks to preserve, maintain and improve Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the benefit and use of the surrounding communities and all New Yorkers.” The alliance’s board of directors is currently comprised of 15 government, community and business leaders.
The Alliance for Flushing Meadows Corona Park was officially launched in November 2015 and is supported by funding from the United States Tennis Association (USTA), which is slated to contribute $350,000 for the nonprofit’s first three years and $200,000 for the following 20 years.
The alliance received immediate criticism from Lancman, who said the decision to exclude City Council representation from the southern half of the park disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of parks users and residents who use that section of the park. The next month, Council members Karen Koslowitz and Peter Koo joined Lancman in speaking out, penning a letter to de Blasio expressing their “extreme dissatisfaction” with the lack of transparency in the creation of the alliance.
Lancman’s lawsuit, which was filed in July 2016, alleges that the alliance membership does not include fair and appropriate City Council membership as mandated by the city law. It also alleges that the entity’s funding scheme violates both the City Charter and Administrative Code. Under current structure, payments received from the USTA go directly to the alliance and do not go through the city’s general fund, which raises questions of transparency and also violates the City Charter, Lancman alleges.
The court denied the mayor’s motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that Lancman’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations.
“[The Feb. 16] court decision rejects the mayor’s effort to avoid a substantive evaluation of his scheme to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of park users as a reward to a political ally, and to circumvent the city charter’s carefully structured process to ensure that park funds are fairly and transparently appropriated,” Lancman said. “I look forward to this case moving forward and to earning for my constituents the representation they deserve when it comes to making important decisions affecting our public park.”
According to the court decision, both parties are to appear for a preliminary conference on April 4.
QNS reached out to the mayor’s office for comment and is awaiting a response.