Willets Point businesses hound city for legal fees

February 12, 2013 12:00PM

After a lengthy eminent domain battle over Queens’ Willets Point, local business owners are still demanding that the city pay their legal fees, which tally in excess of $1 million, the New York Daily News reported. According to attorneys for the businesses, the city became obligated to reimburse their opponents’ legal fees after dropping a bid for the site in favor of another 23-acre development parcel near Citi Field last June.

“The statute is very clear,” said attorney Michael Gerrard, who is seeking more than $609,000 for work that his firm, Arnold & Porter, performed. “If the city abandons the condemnation, the parties whose lands were being condemned are entitled to their legal fees.”

Gerrard referred to Section 702 of New York State’s eminent domain law, which states that if the “procedure to acquire such property is abandoned by the condemnor … the condemnor shall be obligated to reimburse the condemnee.”

However, Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corp., has stated in court documents that the city did not drop its Willets Point bid, but simply augmented it to move it forward. The new mixed-use development is being handled by the Queens Development Group, a joint venture between Sterling Equities and the Related Companies, which will feature retail, entertainment and affordable housing.

“If that’s not abandonment, I don’t know what is. I find their arguments amusing,” Michael Rikon, an attorney for the businesses, said. [NYDN] —Christopher Cameron