City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland on Willets Point

Jim Henderson/Wikimedia Commons

In a legal battle over the long-delayed Willets Point redevelopment project, the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has found itself in the state Court of Appeals arguing about what constitutes “an event.”

Under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the city agreed to let developers build apartments, a mall and a hotel on a parking lot near Citi Field and the nearby Willets Point area that was once a rundown hub for car part and service companies. The parking lot is technically part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, but is under a long-term lease with the Mets, according to Crain’s New York Business.

State Sen. Tony Avella joined parks advocates in filing a lawsuit to stop the construction of the mall, arguing that the shopping center required approval from the state Legislature since it was planned on parkland. But the developers and the de Blasio administration countered that the mall is permitted under a decades-old law that allowed Shea Stadium, which the Mets played in before replacing it with Citi Field. The law listed guidelines for what else could be build at that location, according to DNAinfo.

The government claimed the project meets these guidelines because the mall would include public spaces and free attractions, such as a rooftop garden. City Hall has also said the project is necessary to spur the cleanup of Willets Point, which lacks a sewage system and well-maintained roads.

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But Judge Jenny Rivera noted while the law says the space can be used for an event, she was unsure how a store could be considered an event, according to DNAinfo.

City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who backed the Willets Point redevelopment plan when the council voted on the matter, said her community urgently needs the resources it was promised as part of the project.

“Throughout my involvement with Willets Point, I have worked to ensure that our community directly benefits from any development plans here,” she said in a statement. “I have consistently fought for the inclusion of affordable housing, open space, new schools, a library, and extensive environmental remediation. … I will continue to work with community leaders, city agencies, and developers to ensure that our community receives all of the benefits that were promised to us as a part of this proposal.”

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