By Henry Euler
On July 6, the Appellate Division Court ruled that part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park may not be used for a mall complex known as Willets West. This has been a contentious issue for some time, because many people feel that parkland belongs to the public and should not be awarded out for private development projects. At the very least, such proposals should have been reviewed by the state Legislature, which in this case was not done. The people’s land was just going to be given away.
From my understanding, there were many negative impacts to this project, including economic duress to surrounding small businesses, increased traffic congestion, and other quality of life problems. This ruling may still be appealed by the developers in favor of the project, but at least the court has essentially recognized that parkland belongs to the public.
We should be thankful to those who filed the lawsuit against the project and their supporters, which include state Senator Tony Avella, the City Club of New York, New York City Park Advocates, Willets Point United, Queens Civic Congress and individuals like Benjamin Haber and Paul Graziano.
When one thinks of this situation, what would people have said if this attempted land grab was happening in Central Park or Prospect Park? Most people would be outraged and justifiably so. Flushing Meadows Corona Park deserves the same respect.
Now let’s see the portion of the park that was going to be changed to a mall used for appropriate recreational and green space! This will create jobs and be beneficial to all of the residents of Queens and especially to the people living in the adjacent neighborhoods of Corona and West Flushing.