The New York Court of Appeals held, the legislation permitting the development of Shea Stadium and related facilities on park land does not extend to development of retail businesses and other uses not related to a stadium. In Matter of Avella v. City of New York, the Court strictly construed the legislation permitting the stadium and found that the proposal, to construct a retail mall on the parking field that formerly held the stadium, would violate the public trust doctrine against alienation of parkland.
“Summarizing the longstanding history of the public trust doctrine in Friends of Van Cortlandt Park v City of New York, we explained that ‘our courts have time and again reaffirmed the principle that parkland is impressed with a public trust, requiring legislative approval before it can be alienated or used for an extended period for non-park purposes’ (95 NY2d 623, 630 ).”
The area of New York City known as Willets Point was found to be in need of redevelopment. As part of a redevelopment plan, the developer proposed construction of a large-scale retail complex on a part of the parkland, which it labeld Willets West. The theory was that “the creation of a retail and entertainment center at Willets West w[ould] spur a critical perception change of Willets Point, establishing a sense of place and making it a destination where people want to live, work, and visit.”