Judge Dismisses Willets Point Suit (Updated)


It’s been a bad week for New Yorkers trying to keep their property. First there was the Atlantic Yards decision, which upheld the seizure of citizens’ homes and businesses for the Ratner boondoggle. Now Brooklyn Federal Judge Edward Korman has thrown out a complaint by Willets Point landholders who’d hoped to reverse a redevelopment plan that would force them out establish intentional neglect of Willets Point and deprivation of their equal protection and due process rights [see note at end].

The judge was sympathetic to the complaints of the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association, who brought the complaint and whom he acknowledged had indeed established “thriving businesses” in the Iron Triangle near Citi Field, notwithstanding that “Willets Point is not a neighborhood that Mr. Rogers would recognize” (that is, it has been neglected by the city for years and has no proper sewer system, etc).

But he found that the city had not acted maliciously in so depriving them, nor had it singled them out…

The judge accepted the contentions of the city planners, who moved to dismiss the complaint, that a new sewage plant would have to be built to fix the Willets Point waste problem, that the districts’ “many small, odd-shaped blocks” and other vagaires hindered development less injurious to its businesses, and that for the city’s “investment to become cost-efficient, it should only be made once the area was developed for non-industrial uses.”

As to plaintiffs’ claim of a “Constitutionally protected property interest,” he found that insufficient, comparing it to a hypothetical claim by a rider injured by a subway strike, who “could hardly be said to have a property interest in the continued maintenance of the subway system.” He also dismissed their claim of improper notification by the city of hearings, as “plaintiffs here are unable to identify precisely when they should have been provided with a hearing” and “knew far more than three years before the filing of the complaint [his standard for a statute of limitations] that the policy existed” that might lead to their eviction.

It’s not known yet whether the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association will appeal.

Update. As a commenter points out, this suit did not explicitly seek to overturn the redevelopment plan. Willets Point United Against Eminent Domain Abuse, a different group, has filed an Article 78 petition “challenging the environmental review that was completed by the City of New York” and seeking to nullify the city council’s vote authorizing the plan. Photo (cc) nickjohnson.