Business and property owners in Willets Point, Queens have filed suit against New York City officials, claiming the city has deprived the area of basic services in order to declare the community blighted and begin redevelopment proceedings.
"Business owners in Willets Point - the district near Shea Stadium known mostly for its auto repair shops and potholes - filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday accusing the city of depriving the neighborhood of services so property values would fall, easing the way for the land to be taken through eminent domain.
The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Brooklyn, is another salvo in the business owners' fight to stop the city's $3 billion redevelopment plan for the area. The plan calls for razing the 61-acre business district - which is not to be confused with the Willets Point peninsula on the East River at Fort Totten - and replacing it with 5,500 units of housing, a hotel and convention center and 2.2 million square feet of office space, restaurants and retail shops.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has said the plan would turn "one of the most heavily polluted" places in the city into a "dynamic center of life."
But business owners say the city has been shy on details about property appraisals and other parts of the plan, and they object to the city's threat to use eminent domain to acquire property.
The plan, which would displace some 250 businesses employing 1,300 workers, needs approval from the City Planning Commission and the City Council.
The suit seeks to force the city to provide sidewalks, adequate road repairs, sewers, fire hydrants, snow and trash removal and other basic services that the owners say the city has withheld for more than 40 years. It is also asking for unspecified damages for past neglect."