MLS had secret soccer plan

MLS had secret soccer plan
By Joe Anuta

A confidential proposal made by Major League Soccer last year provides insight into the sports group’s closely guarded vision of what a stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park might look like, documents showed.

The internal plans, which appear to be a proposal from September 2012, were provided to the TimesLedger on condition that the source not be identified. In several renderings, the plans show that the stadium does not sit at ground level, but will rather be perched on top of a mound of earth that the league calls a “publicly accessible berm.”

Opponents of the park believe this berm is needed to build the foundation of the stadium, since the water table is so high in the park. Flushing Meadows sits in a flood plane, which would make it costly to dig downward.

The league said the proposal from last year does not necessarily reflect its current plans, which may or may not include the berm, since since its vision is constantly evolving. A league spokeswoman reiterated that the stadium would not be taller than the Unisphere, even with the mound.

MLS is staying mum about many details of the project, which is what makes groups like the Fairness Coalition believe there are too many unanswered questions associated with the proposal to make it viable — such as who the owner would be and if the team will even make money, hardly a guarantee for an MLS franchise, according to Will Sweeney, who is involved with the coalition.

Sweeney described the group of civic organizations as pro-park but not necessarily anti-development.

He also questioned MLS’s assessment of the number of jobs that will come along with the stadium. The league pegs the number at more than 2,000, yet a similarly sized soccer stadium that was recently proposed in Long Island would provide only 500 jobs.

MLS has said it counts the number of jobs created both on and off the job site, a methodology Sweeney called “absurd.”

The league has said repeatedly that its games would not coincide with games at the New York Mets’ Citi Field, yet the September proposal calls for a plan to mitigate concurrent events at each stadium.

In recent weeks, another group has emerged that is opposed to any commercial activity in the borough’s largest greenspace.

Save Flushing Meadows Corona Park, like the Fairness Coalition, has been endorsed by the Queens Civic Congress.

This group, led by members of the community, including Al Centola, of the Malba Gardens Civic Association, and Geoffrey Croft, of New York City Park Advocates, contends that parkland is sacred, protected by law, and should be free from development by corporations.

They released a video detailing their stance and called on Queens residents to urge their elected officials to oppose the commercialization of Flushing Meadows.

The soccer stadium is just one of three projects proposed for the park.

Developers at Willets Point hope to put a 1.4 million-square-foot mall on the site of a Citi Field parking lot — technically parkland — and the United States Tennis Association is looking to expand its footprint by less than an acre, but also continue to park cars on grassy areas of the park and build a diesel power generator outside the area it leases from the city, according to an environmental impact statement.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.