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Floral Park files suit against Belmont Park redevelopment

A new arena for the New York Islanders

A new arena for the New York Islanders would be built in the parking lot behind the grandstand at Belmont Park, seen here on July 1. Photo Credit: Newsday/John Keating

The Village of Floral Park has filed suit against the state to block the $1.3 billion redevelopment of Belmont Park, including the new arena for the New York Islanders, ahead of a ceremonial groundbreaking on the property expected this month.

The Article 78 proceeding, a lawsuit against a municipality, asks a judge to overturn all approvals of the project, stop construction on the site and restart the environmental review process, according to documents filed in state Supreme Court in Mineola.

The suit says the public bidding process for the development rights at Belmont Park was flawed and tipped in favor of developer New York Arena Partners due to a "secret plan" conceived before the state issued a request for proposals.

The suit also claims the state's final environmental review did not fully study the impact of the new Elmont Long Island Rail Road station that will be built on the site of the racetrack's north parking lot. 

"It is truly unfortunate that this is how this process is unfolding. The Village of Floral Park has never opposed the reasonable redevelopment of the underutilized parcels at Belmont Park," Mayor Dominick Longobardi said in an emailed statement to residents and business owners on Tuesday.

Floral Park officials had to sue because Empire State Development, the state agency responsible for granting the project's approval last month, "failed to mitigate the very real negative consequences to our Village that will result from the massive size and scope of the Project,” Longobardi said. 

New York Arena Partners are approved to build a 19,000-seat arena for Islanders' games and concerts; 350,000 square feet of upscale shops and restaurants; a 250-room hotel and parking on 43-acres of vacant state-owned property at Belmont Park.

The development group is a partnership of the owners of the Islanders, the New York Mets and the arena development company Oak View Group.

A spokesman for the development group referred requests for comment to ESD. 

“Empire State Development does not comment on litigation," said spokesman Jack Sterne. "This project has gone through a transparent, public process over multiple years, and has adhered to all requirements under state law. We will vigorously defend our actions so we can move forward with this project, which will deliver thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity to Nassau County.”

Jason Conwall, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said the state has worked in good faith with Floral Park for over a year to address village concerns. 

"The mayor asked for and received a meeting ‎with a top administration official to continue discussing the village's concerns, and then turned around and filed this lawsuit before it ever took place," said Conwall. "We don't comment on pending litigation, but we know a stunt when we see one and we're confident the courts will agree."

Cuomo, a Democrat, annouced the developers' successful bid for the state land at Belmont Park in December 2017.

Floral Park is represented by Michael Murphy of the environmental law firm Beveridge & Diamond. Murphy said no judge has been assigned to the case yet, so no hearing has been scheduled.

The suit comes as Longobardi is scheduled to meet with state budget director Robert Mujica and project developers Monday in Manhattan to discuss the village's concerns.

Longobardi said last week at a village trustees meeting he wanted to meet with Cuomo before filing a lawsuit. But the meeting with Mujica already had been scheduled, Cuomo's office said.

Mujica said he hasn't yet received specifics on Floral Park's concerns. 

"We will do the right thing by them to the extent we can, but the project is the project and it’s going forward," Mujica said last week.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the meeting with Mujica was still on, Longobardi said. 

"In discussions with [the] legal team and village executives we decided we should do everything we think necessary to protect the village," Longobardi told Newsday. "We will be at the meeting and hope it's productive."

Floral Park has $50,000 in its municipal legal budget, Longobardi said, but the lawsuit likely will cost more. He said "the village has other resources if necessary," but declined to elaborate.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat who has publicly supported the Belmont project, did not comment on the lawsuit but noted the project's benefits to surrounding communities. 

“We can’t afford to repeat the mistakes of Amazon," Curran said, referring to the failed bid to build an Amazon headquarters in Long Island City. "I will continue to back this project because it accomplishes three vital goals for Nassau: it boosts our economy with new jobs and revenue, expands our public transit network, and brings our Islanders home." 


 

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