A state Supreme Court justice has tossed out lawsuits filed by the Village of Floral Park and various civic groups trying to reverse state approvals for the new arena for the New York Islanders, eliminating all legal challenges to the $1.3 billion project at Belmont Park.
In court documents filed Tuesday, Justice Roy S. Mahon ruled the village lacked, "standing to sue for alleged improprieties in the RFP process." Mahon also said Floral Park had "not shown that it has suffered an injury in fact distinct from that of the general public."
The decision dealt a blow to Floral Park officials and civic groups who had opposed the size and scope of project for more than a year, saying it would worsen traffic, noise and light pollution in surrounding residential areas
The village filed its initial complaint in September 2019, and later sought a temporary restraining order to immediately stop work on the project.
"Of course, we are disappointed with the Judge’s conclusion," Floral Park Mayor Dominick Longobardi said in a statement on the village website.
Longobardi said the failure of the state's business development agency, Empire State Development, "to require meaningful mitigation of the very obvious and significant negative impacts that the Belmont Project poses to the surrounding communities warrants that this project needs to be re-evaluated and scaled back."
Attorneys representing Floral Park and the civic associations will have 30 days to appeal Mahon's decision. Longobardi said officials were weighing all options.
Eric Gertler, ESD's acting commissioner, called dismissal of the lawsuits, "a decisive victory for smart economic development … We look forward to continuing this project, which will deliver thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity to the downstate region — which are needed now more than ever."
Work on the arena project, which broke ground late last August, has been suspended since Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo stopped all nonessential construction work on March 27 as part of the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parts of upstate New York are poised to restart outdoor construction projects and elective surgeries, but it was unclear when work at Belmont could resume.
Richard Browne of Sterling Project Development, which is handling the arena's construction, said on March 27 he expected the project to remain on schedule, "if construction restarts within a reasonable period."
The arena was slated to be open in October 2021 for the start of the Islanders' season.
Supporters of the arena project, including elected local and state officials, say bringing the Islanders hockey team back to a new home in Nassau County would provide needed jobs and an economic boost for the region.
In addition to the arena, the project would include a 250-room hotel and 350,000 square feet of retail on 43 acres of land adjacent to the Belmont racetrack. The complex is privately funded by New York Arena Partners, a joint venture between Islanders principal owner Scott Malkin, New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke.
Developers also are helping fund a new $105 million Long Island Rail Road station that will be connected to the parking lot north of Belmont’s racetrack.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran called the court decision “good news" for the county.
"We’re making progress towards a safe reopening, and outdoor construction projects like Belmont will be key to getting us on the road to economic recovery,“ said Curran, a Democrat.
Michael Murphy, Floral Park's Manhattan-based environmental law attorney, did not respond to requests for comment.