BY COUNCILMEMBER JULISSA FERRERAS
With public review of the National Tennis Center’s proposed expansion in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (FMCP) well under way, it is time to set our sights on the future of what is the largest and most important open space for the residents of Queens.
Having spent my whole life in and around FMCP, I can attest to the fact that it has not received the attention and resources a park of its size and high utilization deserves.
Although I am sensitive to the budgetary and staffing constraints the Parks Department faces, it must be pointed out that unlike most communities in the city, we in Queens have private entities that greatly benefit from our public space.
After engaging in numerous conversations with the park’s stakeholders, I have come to the conclusion that we must establish a new nonprofit alliance dedicated to FMCP. I see this as the best way to ensure the community has the quality park it deserves for future generations to enjoy.
Despite hosting upwards of 20,000 people from organized soccer leagues every week, our beloved park only has a quarter of the staff of Prospect Park, though it is more than double in size.
Additionally, Central Park, which is smaller than FMCP, has nearly eight times as many workers.
Our parkland is precious. FMCP is the Central Park of Queens. It is the heart and lungs of our community.
If a public-private partnership akin to the Prospect Park Alliance and the Central Park Conservancy were to be created, FMCP would be better positioned to attract new revenue streams and incorporate direct community input.
The FMCP alliance board, which will be comprised of a healthy mix of local residents and representatives from the corporations inhabiting the park, will be able to work with the Parks Department in determining how private funds would be best spent for the benefit of the community.
In the immediate term, the alliance would provide a vehicle to which corporate entities operating in and benefiting from the park, such as the USTA and the Mets, could commit financial support for the ongoing care of the park, augmenting the Parks Department’s budget.
My vision for the alliance is to allow its members to represent the voice of our community and be a part of the park’s governance. I look forward to achieving a healthy collaborative effort wherein the alliance can receive funds from private sources to increase FMCP’s dedicated staff and resources it so desperately needs.
Every stakeholder I have spoken to – from the organizations who want to build in the park and local business owners to the soccer leagues and park advocacy groups – agrees that FMCP needs a new alliance, and it needs it now.
As this community is being asked to consider three major development projects in and next to FMCP, we ask the Parks Department and the City to look at these three projects holistically, consider their cumulative impact on the park, and commit to creating an alliance that will help protect this irreplaceable park.
Councilmember Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. She is the chair of the Women’s Issues Committee and is a member of the Committees on Parks and Recreation, Civil Rights, Consumer Affairs, Economic Development, Finance and Health.