Mum on Mls Soccer Proposal

Reluctance From Mayoral Candidates

Mayoral candidates are on the fence about a Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium proposed for Flushing Meadows- Corona Park.

In a Mayoral Forum on Sustainability held at Cooper Union Monday, Apr. 22, moderator Brian Lehrer asked candidates to raise their hands if they strongly supported the stadium- no one indicated they did.

When Lehrer asked if anyone strongly opposed the stadium, candidates kept their hands in their laps.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, former MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, oil and supermarket tycoon John Catsimatidis, former councilman Sal Albanese and Doe Fund founder George McDonald all participated in the forum.

Liu stated his reticence to support the stadium based on past developments in parks and a lack of indication where the alienated park land would be restored.

“When they talk about alienating parkland for a stadium, they always make promises of making sure that the parkland is restored in another, different park in the borough or in the city,” Liu said. “Unfortunately, under this administration, we have seen a couple of other stadiums that have been built, and the parks facilities and spaces not being made available … until a huge amount of public pressure was put to bear on the administration. So, there’s a credibility factor here. And I certainly-in the case of the Major League Soccer stadium that’s being proposed-and I do believe the administration is pushing behind the scenes. I do not think overall it’s a good idea because they haven’t shown us exactly where they want to restore the parkland.”

It has been reported that the project would alienate 13 acres of park land to build the 20,000-25,000 seat stadium that would host a major league soccer team

The proposed stadium comes at a crossroads for the park, where the United States Tennis Association (USTA) is requesting the alienation of .68 acres to expand the National Tennis Center and developers are eyeing a plot in College point to build what has been touted as the city’s biggest shopping mall.

Three of six affected community boards (Boards 3, 4 and 9) voted to oppose the USTA’s expansion. Boards 6, 7 and 8 supported it.

Borough President Helen Marshall sent on Apr. 11 a formal letter to the City Council supporting the expansion, adding the organization needs to supply funds for park restoration, work to engage local businesses and replace lost park land.

Park advocates have said the incremental auctioning of the park will adversely affect residents and the borough’s green space.

During a public hearing at Queens Community Board 4 on Mar. 12, members of the Fairness Coalition of Queens, a public space watchdog group, stated the development in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is hurting children’s health.

“Every inch they take from the park is adding an inch to our children’s waists,” one member said, alluding to the obesity crisis facing Queens children.

Maria Alvarez, a resident who spoke against the USTA expansion Mar. 12, said she opposed development of the tennis center, stadium and mall and questioned the quality of jobs provided by major developers in the area.

“They promise the moon and the stars,” she said. “But in the end, everybody’s living off of Medicaid, food stamps and everything else- those are the jobs they are promising for our people.”

During the mayoral forum Apr. 22, candidates expressed a desire to make parks more accessible to lowerincome residents-a desire shared by groups who oppose the MLS stadium and USTA expansion.

All nine candidates present promised to renew Mayor Bloomberg’s goal of ensuring that every New Yorker lives within a 10-minute walk of a park.

Carrion said that public-private partnerships are a viable means to finance park improvements across the city. The city should also send more of its money to parks “where there are no wealthy partners-no central park conservancies,'” he said.

Thompson said parks and users in poorer areas are being treated like “second-class citizens.”

“It’s great to have a park that’s within a 10-minute walk, but if you look at the parks that exist, they aren’t fit to walk into,” he said.

Liu agreed there is inequity among the city’s parks, adding that the city needs to hold businesses responsible and accountable for the promises they have made to taxpayers in exchange for being able to operate in the parks.

“They have not, in many cases, lived up to the financial commitment of keeping up those parks that they operate in,” Liu said.

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