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City Council to vote on resolution in favor of Willets Point development

Rendering courtesy of NYCEDC

Updated 5 p.m.

The City Council will vote Wednesday to file an amicus brief siding with Willets Point developers appealing a State Supreme Court decision which bars the construction of a $3 billion residential and commercial hub near Citi Field.

The New York State Court of Appeals decided in late November that it would consider the Queens Development Group’s appeal to review a decision against allowing the construction of a million-square-foot mall and affordable housing units in the area.

The ruling followed a suit against the Queens Development Group—a partnership of Related Companies and Sterling Equities—brought on by state Senator Tony Avella and park advocates.

The court decided in favor of the petitioners, who argued that the plan could not go forward because the space is designated public parkland as part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and the developers did not acquire the proper authorization necessary to transfer the land to a nonpublic entity.

According to the Legal Institute of Cornell, an amicus brief can be filed by a person or group who is not a party to a lawsuit, but has a strong interest in the matter. It is used to petition the court for permission to submit a brief with the intent of influencing the court’s decision.

The resolution states that the Council will file the brief in order to uphold their prior approval of the Willets Point development plan, which approved the proposal’s land-use applications in 2008 and designated the site an urban renewal area.

According to a released statement, Avella believed the City Council’s approval of the land-use plan is irrelevant to the case of whether the developers had an as-of-right entitlement to develop city parkland.

“I am astonished that the City Council would yield to the request of the developers in this case who clearly utilized whatever undue influence they could muster to get the City Council to take a position completely opposite of the community and in defiance of the current administration who declined to appeal this case to the Court of Appeals,” Avella said.

Although the Bloomberg administration was supportive of the development plans, the mayor’s office under Bill de Blasio ultimately declined to appeal the Supreme Court ruling against the mall because of disagreements over how soon the affordable housing could be built.

As the area’s City Council representative, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland declined to comment until after the vote had been taken but has reportedly been supportive of the resolution. City Councilman Rory Lancman, however, said in a statement Tuesday he would vote against the resolution.

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