Park Advocates Give Soccer Stadium Idea a Yellow Card

Say City Putting Greenspace On Market

Residents and park advocates are coming out en massse to protest another potential land deal in Flushing Meadows- Corona Park.

The Fairness Coalition of Queens held a rally Thursday, May 9, to protest the sale of 13 acres of park land in FMCP to Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the deputy Prime Minister of the UnitedArab Emirates, who seeks to build a 35,000 seat soccer stadium inside the park.

“It is disturbing to learn that Mayor Bloomberg is negotiating to give away NewYork City parkland to a billionaire oil sheik. Building another 35,000 seat stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park would destroy any usefulness the park provides as green space and recreation to the local community of working people and immigrants,” said Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make the Road New York.

“New Yorkers can not afford to lose parkland but it is obvious that the Sheik has plenty of money to purchase private property to pursue his stadium dream. We do not believe it is acceptable for the Mayor to take away parkland from our community which depends on this park for recreation, enjoyment, exercise, and quality of life,” said Will Sweeney, co-founder of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance.

The developer has not released plans for replacing lost park land in the affected communities.

Many Queens elected officials have slammed the plan including City Council Members Daniel Dromm, Peter Vallone, and Jimmy Van Bramer, as well as and State Sen. Tony Avella.

“One dollar for land in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park? That’s the worst deal since Peter Minuit paid $24 for the island of Manhattan,” said Vallone, refering to a Novmeber, 2012 Crain’s New York article that stated the Bloomberg administration was offering developers a 35-year, $1-a-year lease, with no sales taxes on construction materials, no property taxes and no revenue sharing with the city.

“Sheikh Mansour’s self-serving financial scheme would never fly in Central Park, and it certainly shouldn’t be able to take flight at the expense of precious parkland in Queens,” Vallone continued. “Queens residents deserve a say in this process and this billionaire can bet his bottom dollar I’ll make sure their voices are heard.”

“Parkland is sacred and should be preserved, not given away to private developers, especially billionaires who can afford to buy their own land,” said Avella. “The proposed MLS stadium project seeks to eliminate nearly 20 acres of the parkland from Queens’ most prominent park, which provides open space and recreational benefits to thousands of borough residents and low and middle income families. In addition, MLS has failed to provide provide any specific information on where or when the parkland will be replaced and has yet to address the environmental impact of the project. This is simply unacceptable. If this billionaire owner wants a professional soccer team in Queens, let him find his own landaway from Flushing Meadow Corona Park.”

During a mayoral forum on environmental issues on Apr. 22, no candidate took a stance either way. When asked to raise their hands if they supported or opposed the project, all the candidates kept their hands in their laps .

The Fairness Coalition charged the construction will introduce more impervious surface to the area, preventing rainwater absorption and exacerbating flooding problems. The coalition also noted that the site is too far from mass transit and parking and will introduce conflict between sports fans and park users.

Selling park land to a forieng national has also raised some concern.

In April, the U.S. State Department released a report on human rights abuses in the United Arab Emirates stating that the country had “significant human rights problems.”

“The three most significant human rights problems were arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, and lengthy pretrial detentions; limitations on citizens’ civil liberties (including the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association); and citizens’ inability to change their government,” the report stated.