Pols care more about real estate interests than parkland

Major League Soccer has once again demonstrated its lack of transparency and legitimacy in what was supposed to be a public hearing, but was in fact rigged in an attempt to make it appear there was minimal opposition by ensuring that those opposing were kept out of the main auditorium and relegated to a basement area (“MLS pitches Queens stadium,” Dec. 6-12).

MLS is involved with private, for-profit businesses and could care less about the issue involving usurpation of public parkland. While disagreeing, one can understand MLS, since its pursuit of money is paramount to the public interest. What one cannot understand and should not tolerate is the Queens elected officials who for years have evidenced their ignorance concerning the importance of parks in a congested urban society and have consistently participated in dumping on Flushing Meadows Corona Park with all sorts of illegitimate structures that do not belong in it.

A case in point is Borough President Helen Marshall, who thought it was a good idea to build a grand prix racetrack around Meadow Lake and a huge New York Jets football stadium in the middle of the park. Her anti-Flushing Meadows activities are so egregious as to qualify her as the park’s Public Enemy No. 1. Not any better are state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights), supporters of MLS and who think it is good for the economy.

If it is economy we are talking about, why settle for pennies? How about a 50-story luxury apartment building or a Macy’s? They are hereby challenged to state publicly whether they would support a stadium or other private business interests in Central, Bronx or Prospect parks for so-called economic reasons. One should not hold his or her breath waiting for an answer.

Term limits will rid us of Marshall but not Peralta and Moya, whose support for MLS makes it clear their rhetoric about caring for the poor and the middle class is empty and speaks more of an affinity with the rich and the privileged. Recognition that urban parks are a resource that cannot be replaced should be an important election issue, and one seeking public office who does not support that should not be elected and those already in office should be denied re-election.

The public must be alert to politicians’ attempts to beguile them with justification for their failure to protect the park by claiming Flushing Meadows is different from other parks. This snake oil must be rejected because there is nothing in the City Charter that designated the park as “different.” This is a phony claim manufactured by Donald Manes, a former discredited borough president who wanted to turn the park into another Meadowlands sports complex, presumably to be named after himself.

This charade had been followed year after year by intellectually bankrupt politicians more interested in real estate moguls and private business interests than the poor and middle-class users of the park.

It is to be noted that Donovan Finn, a SUNY Stony Brook professor of urban policy and environmental design, was correct to point out that there is no such thing as parkland in disrepair since it should be repaired and made usable as parkland. He was also correct to point out that replacing Flushing Meadows land with decrepit land elsewhere and not even contiguous to the park is unacceptable.

There is other non-Flushing Meadows land elsewhere available for a stadium, but why should that interest wealthy soccer club owners who would rather have free public parkland than pay for property in the open market?

Unless the public wakes up and demands the end to the continual desecration to this park, Manes’ dream may become a reality and bring an end to a much-needed and -used park so vital to our community.

Benjamin Haber