Flushing Meadows-Corona Park

In February 2014, the City Club was instrumental in bringing a law suit, together with other civic groups, businesses, and individuals, as well as State Senator Tony Avella, challenging the proposed construction of a shopping mall in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, immediately to the east of CitiField, on what is now the Citifield parking lot.  The case was captioned Avella v. City of New York.  This project, sponsored by the City’s Economic Development Corporation, and endorsed by the Bloomberg Administration and by the City Council, was to be built by The Related Companies and Sterling Equities, allegedly in conjunction with the redevelopment of a portion of Willets Point.  The City Club brought this case to vindicate the principle of the public trust doctrine, an ancient common law doctrine according to which parkland is held in trust for the people of the State, and cannot be alienated (i.e., sold, leased, transferred or otherwise dedicated to a non-park use) without the consent of the State Legislature.  The respondents argued that the requisite consent could be found in a few words of the 1961 law that authorized the construction of Shea Stadium.  While the trial court agreed with respondents, the Appellate Division reversed in a unanimous decision.  Reaffirming the public trust doctrine, the Appellate Division stated:  “[U]nder the public trust doctrine, dedicated park areas in New York are impressed with a public trust for the benefit of the people of the State, and their ‘use for other than park purposes, either for a period of years or permanently, requires the direct and specific approval of the State Legislature, plainly conferred,” and went on to hold:  “There is simply no basis to interpret the statute as authorizing the construction of another structure that has no natural connection to a stadium.”  The case is currently on appeal to the New York Court of Appeals.

 

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