Willets Point redevelopment clears judicial hurdle

Willets Point, Queens (view along 127th Street between 37th and 36th Avenues). Image: CityLand.

Resident and businesses argued City did not fully consider plan’s impact on highway traffic and water supply. In November 2008 the City Council approved a redevelopment plan for Willets Point, Queens. The plan would transform a 61-acre industrial section of northern Queens into a mixed-use neighborhood with more than 5,000 residential units, 1.75 million sq. ft. of retail space, a school, and a hotel. According to the proposal’s environmental review, the City would undertake extensive environmental cleanup efforts and use fill to raise the entire area out of the 100-year flood zone. In order to address the projected increase in traffic, new traffic ramps would be added to the three highways located near the area. The ramps would require approval from the State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

Willets Point resident Joseph Ardizzone and local businesses challenged the plan, claiming that the City’s environmental impact statement did not adequately consider traffic impacts. Ardizzone argued that the City failed to explicitly state that it could not mitigate the impacts and did not describe the State and federal approvals process necessary to build the additional highway ramps. Ardizzone also claimed that the City inadequately considered the plan’s impact on the water supply, citing a study that concluded the proposed fill would compress underlying soil and force contaminants into a nearby aquifer.

Justice Joan A. Madden dismissed the challenge, finding that the City’s traffic analysis clearly identified that the plan would lead to significant increases in traffic congestion and deteriorating levels of service on the highways, and that the City did not suggest these impacts could be mitigated. Justice Madden ruled that the City was not required to describe the process for obtaining permits necessary for the project’s completion, and assumed additional environmental review would be required if it failed to obtain approval for the new highway ramps. Noting that the City adequately considered the potential impacts of the fill on the underlying soil, Justice Madden said Ardizzone’s study was speculative and failed to take into account that the City’s remediation plan included removing contaminated soil.

Ardizzone v. Bloomberg, Index No. 103406/09 (N.Y.Cty.Sup.Ct. Aug. 24, 2010) (Madden, J.) (Attorneys: Michael B. Gerrard, Nelson D. Johnson, for Ardizzone; Michael A. Cardozo, Chris Reo, for NYC).

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