At an emergency meeting organized by a coalition of civic groups, state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) announced he would start legal action in State Supreme Court early next month to block St. John's University's plan to temporarily house a New York Mets farm team at the school.
Hundreds attended last Thursday night's meeting, at the Hillcrest Jewish Center, which ended with civic group members marching to the northeast gates of St. John's, stopping traffic on Union Turnpike along the way.
"Assemblyman Weprin and I have begun drawing up court papers," Padavan said at the meeting, referring to Bayside Democrat Mark Weprin, who has joined in the bipartisan effort to stop the Mets from using the St. John's campus.
Padavan told the group there were "a number of salient issues" that could challenge the team's placement at St. John's.
He said those issues included rezoning questions, the legality of public city funds being used to construct a stadium that will revert to St. John's private ownership in two years, the lack of an environmental impact study for the stadium, and the absence of a study on how traffic patterns would be affected in the area.
The influential state senator said the legal work on the case would be "considerable."
"How it will fare is an answer I cannot give," Padavan said of the future legal battle.
At press time, Weprin said he and Padavan would be ready to file court documents in about one week. Weprin said the strongest legal argument against the team playing at St. John's involved current zoning regulations.
The city's Economic Development Corporation and the New York Mets will give St. John's the finished stadium, which will cost $6 million to construct, when the Mets farm team known as the Kings moves to permanent facilities at Steeple Chase Park in Coney Island.
"This is public money going into a private, commercial enterprise," Padavan said, adding that in his opinion "there will have to be a change of zoning."
As of press time, the Mets and St. John's had not finalized any agreement, St. John's spokesman Jodi Fisher said.
Also present at last Thursday's meeting were representatives sent by state Sen. Daniel Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing). Hevesi's aide said the senator was not happy with the way St. John's has handled the whole affair, and Meyersohn's aide said the senator was on record as being against the plan.
Padavan reiterated how St. John's had originally secured land on the Creedmoor property to be used for the university's ballfields.
"They said that was a great place to build a ballfield," Padavan said of St. John's reaction to seeing the Creedmoor land. "But [the Mets] didn't want to do that. They wanted to play at St. John's."
Mark Lefkoff, a member of Community Board 8, took issue with St. John's offer to allot time for community teams to play on the new ballfield proposed for the Mets farm team. He held up a list on which St. John's had allocated playing time for community teams.
Lefkoff said 50 percent of the teams on the list were not from the community and the list repeated team names so that only 12 different teams were actually listed. He also claimed that none of the teams were in Community Board 8, where St. John's is located.
Lefkoff said 29 percent of the game dates were for the Bayside Yankees, a team from outside the community.
He urged the community to show up at the town hall meeting Feb. 23 at Susan B. Anthony School in Fresh Meadows.
After last week's meeting the group marched en masse toward St. John's, stopping traffic on Union Turnpike. They stopped in front of the gated entrance to the university at the corner of Union Turnpike and Parsons Boulevard, chanting "No ballfield!"
©2000 Community News Group
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