My name is Geoffrey Croft, president and founder of NYC Park Advocates.
It is truly a sad day in "city planning" when we are talking about a plan that seizes more than 30 acres of public parkland to allow one of the country's largest developers to build the largest mall New York City.
Sounds inconceivable right? Just when you thought this administration couldn't get any lower, here we are today.
And lets not forget the Related Companies and Sterling's original plan for our park - building a massive casino and retail complex.
Let's be very clear: The 1961 statute that the city and the applicants are so desperately trying to rely on in order to justify being allowed to develop the public parkland for non-park purposes does not permit a shopping mall, much less a 1.4 million square foot mall.
Administrative Code 18-118 explicitly states that any monies gained from a temporary lease on the property must go back into the property. Back Into The Property, not line the pockets of Related or Sterling Equity.
To quote the law directly, the revenue must aid "in the financing of the construction and operation of such stadium, grounds, parking areas and facilities, and any additions, alterations or improvements thereto, or to the equipment thereof."
Clearly this is not the case unless the applicant is representing that this is being done to off-set unfortunate investments made by the Wilpons. Is that the plan?
Clearly the intention of the law was not to allow any project to make a permanent claim on the parkland or its facilities, because the revenue was supposed to fund the property.
The law simply does not authorize the Willets West project. It does not enable use of the parking lot or authorize retail stores - and certainly something that is primarily a shopping mall.
The bill does say "trade and commerce", but that obviously refers to conventions, not stores. Obviously, a shopping mall was never intended as the bill language states.
The park land we are talking about here today for this irresponsible project was never alienated as required under state law nor are they planning to replace it if approved.
By law, PARKS ARE NOT allowed to be used for such non-park purposes. In fact State law - which our elected officials have taken an oath to uphold - prohibits such commercial development.
If ever there was a poster child for non-park purposes, building the city's largest mall would be it.
I would also like to point out one of the most disingenuous statements being made today - language included in your calendar states:
"It would incorporate a development substantially similar to that anticipated and analyzed in the 2008 Willets Point Development Plan Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS), as well as a major entertainment/retail component and parking adjacent to CitiField."
Is that a joke - who wrote that - the Applicant? The 30 acres of public parkland was NEVER part of the original plan in anyway. In any way and it certainly was never approved by the City Council.
There is also just no getting round the fact that this 1.4 square foot mall is a totally new project than what was approved by the City Council and City Planning.
And, as usual, no one is under any illusion that City Planning will do its job and reject such an irresponsible project. This is nothing but an end run around the law and City Planning will be complicit when you rubber stamp its approval.
This is public park land and it does NOT belong to Mayor Bloomberg or to Seth Pinsky, the Related Companies or the Wilpons - it belongs to the people of the City of New York.
If the 30 plus acres of public park land they are attempting to seize for the project are no longer needed for parking ,then it should revert back to its original use. This is what our elected officials should be pushing for and what any legitimate city planning agency would insist on and not, instead, allowing our public spaces to be given away to politically connected developers.
The proposed giveaway of public park land is being done to sweeten the deal for Related so they have a guaranteed revenue stream "up front" in order to help them off-set their investments in building the rest of the Willets Point.
This is disgraceful. This plan is about greed, pure and simple. It is a nightmare for the residents of Queens in so many ways and for the City's taxpayers at large who are greatly subsidizing this project.
The corporate welfare must end.
NYC Park Advocates
(646) 584-8250 Cell #
NYC Park Advocates Inc. is a non-profit, non-partisan watchdog group dedicated to improving public parks, restoring public funding, increasing public recreation programs, expanding open space and accessibility, and achieving the equitable distribution of these vital services in New York City for all. We are the only non-profit park advocacy group dedicated to all City, State and Federal parkland in New York City. For more information please visit us at http://nycparkadvocates.org