Judge denies village’s restraining order request against Belmont construction

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A state Supreme Court judge denied Floral Park officials’ request to halt construction at Belmont Park on Nov. 7.

The village filed a request for a temporary restraining order, asking a judge to issue an “immediate cessation of all staging and New York Racing Association-support activities from the eastern portion of the North Lot,” construction-related truck traffic on Plainfield Avenue and “sheet pile driving activities,” earlier this month. In court documents, Michael Murphy, the attorney representing the village, wrote that the construction was leading to unsafe road conditions on Plainfield Avenue, constant noise in the area and an unpleasant smell emanating from “horse urine and manure,” since the New York Racing Association was forced to move its horse-related operations during construction.

To refute these claims, both Empire State Development, the state agency intended to promote development in New York, and developers New York Arena Partners filed their own documents in the state Supreme Court on Nov. 6 to oppose the request. In the documents, attorneys for ESD wrote that the village “failed to establish that it will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of the temporary restraining order,” and argued that a restraining order “would unnecessarily delay and disrupt a project that will bring substantial economic benefits to the Long Island region.”

They further argued that the village failed to demonstrate that there was an increase in traffic related to the traffic, and even if there were, they wrote, the village did not explain how the increased traffic on Plainfield Avenue is affecting its ability to provide municipal services. The attorneys also wrote that some of the noise the village complained about actually arose from PSEG’s construction of a substation along Belmont Park Road, and was therefore unrelated to New York Arena Partner’s redevelopment of Belmont Park. Finally, they argued that Floral Park’s concerns about worsening conditions once the developers start “sheet pile activities” were unfounded because New York Arena Partners had already installed 400 feet of sheet piles at the arena and have not yet received any complaints from residents.

“Petitioner has failed to demonstrate the extraordinary circumstances that would entitle it

to a TRO or preliminary injunctive relief,” the memo reads. “Accordingly, its request for a TRO should be denied.”

The Arena Partners — a consortium comprising the Islanders hockey franchise, Oak View Group and the Wilpon family — also submitted its own memorandum to oppose the request. Its attorneys reiterated many of the claims made by ESD’s attorneys, and noted that the village only filed the request seven weeks after it first submitted a lawsuit challenging the legality of the project.

They also wrote that the developers would suffer from a temporary restraining order, explaining that any delay could cause contractors to lose their jobs, put construction at risk of further delay from winter weather conditions, “put off nearly a billion dollars in economic impact for Long Island and the creation of thousands of new jobs, as well as prevent the New York Islanders from using the arena in time for the 2021 - 22 hockey season.

In court on Thursday, all three parties restated their views, and ESD officials spoke of the agency’s review process for the project before it was approved in August. Representatives from both ESD and NYAP also said they have mitigating the adverse effects of the construction, and Aubrey Phillips, an Elmont activist who was at the Mineola court for the hearing, said the attorneys suggested that “project is moving forward at a quick rate” and all the issues will be resolved shortly. Judge Roy Mahon then ruled that the village did not show enough proof that it suffered from irreparable harm from the construction to warrant a restraining order.

“Today’s decision is a victory for smart economic development and is an important step forward in our efforts to transform Belmont Park, while delivering thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity to Nassau County,” ESD Spokesman Jack Sterne said in a statement. “As we have said, this project went through a transparent, public process that followed all requirements under state law, and we are pleased the judge’s decision recognizes that.”

“We will continue to work with the surrounding communities to minimize inconveniences during construction and remain committed to vigorously defending this project,” he added.

Floral Park and Elmont officials are due back in court on Dec. 6 to discuss their pending lawsuits against the project.