By Bob Harris
Parkland is one of the amenities which make our Queens quality of life so special. Queens civic leaders applauded the recent ruling by the New York State Court of Appeals that said private developers can not take 30 acres of parking lot next to Citi Field to build a mega-mall and recreation center.
Decades ago, in some kind of deal, the lot had been given to the Mets so there would be adequate parking for home baseball games.
This ruling means that developers can’t just take parkland to make money for themselves, and the New York State Legislature must give permission to do this, and each acre of the land must be replaced.
This is a great win for civic associations which have fought for years against things like sanitation garages, ice hockey rinks for Nassau teams, and auto racing tracks in our parks. It is interesting that civics, such as West Cunningham Park, Juniper Park and Kissena Park, have taken their names from their adjacent parks. People care about their parks and spend many hours performing volunteer work to keep them nice places to visit. They also fight for them when necessary.
This whole showdown took place because some developers decided that there was a lot of land to exploit in Willets Point.
The area, also called “The Iron Triangle” because of the many car repair and car parts shops, was not maintained by the city, so there were no streets or sidewalks or sewers or trees. Though the businesses were flourishing and paying taxes, the dilapidated appearance was the excuse to close down the shops and develop the area for profit.
It’s ironic that, in an age when shopping malls and some big box retailers are struggling due to e-commerce, developers are still pushing for a big mall.
The area is in the middle of nowhere. Ramps and roads would have to be built. One of the problems is that affordable housing is supposed to be built, along with market-value housing. It seems that the developers didn’t want to spend money on this, although Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push for affordable housing might speed up this idea. There had been talk that the affordable housing might be built soon, but now it appears that it might take decades because the developers can just pay a fine and not build.
It is great that the court decision against the proposal was 5-1. With the help of state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), and the support of groups such as the Queens Civic Congress, East Elmhurst Corona Alliance, Willets Point United, the City Club and other interested parties, this result was possible because it was a fight for parks everywhere.
This large area of land should have been fixed by the city years ago so that the former and current businesses could develop and grow and provide revenue for the city, but there are so many millions of dollars available for a mega-mall or more sports stadiums that developers will keep pushing.
Well, the residents of Queens who want nice parks will keep fighting these type of plans because they worry about their local parks.
GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK
It is only fair that pharmaceutical companies should be reimbursed for the research and development they spend on new medicines.
However, the high price of some drugs puts the health of some people at risk. Some seniors have to debate buying food and paying rent versus buying medicines. Some people cut their pills in half so they can at least take some medicine.
Why won’t Congress let Medicare bargain with drug manufacturers to lower the cost of medicines? It is done in Europe. Why are some horrible people able to raise the price of medicine 5,000 percent?