City parks should not be for sale

By Benjamin M. Haber

Flushing Meadows Corona Park is the second largest park in New York City and with about six million annual visitors, is the second most used. One need only go to the park on a weekend and witness the extent of its use. Notwithstanding the above, it is also the most abused park in our municipal park system. Now comes yet another misuse of the park, a proposal by the Madison Square Garden Company to shut down a part of the park for a three-day music festival. (“MSG’s plan for music festival in Flushing concerns BP Katz,” TimesLedger, Nov. 6). Parks are not for sale to the highest bidder, nor should any part of the park be shut down for the benefit of a private for-profit company. The notion MSG will ensure its restoration is nonsense. Taxpayers’ dollars maintain a park. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has good reason to be concerned and one expects her to oppose this further intrusion in our park.

Since 1982, MSG, an enormously for-profit company, has not paid a dime to New City in property taxes for the land and buildings it occupies from 33rd to 34th streets between 7th and 8th avenues, courtesy of an exemption it engineered over 32 years ago from Albany that had no expiration date, something that has not been given to any other company in this state. In short, this is corporate welfare unlimited in size and infinite in time. MSG has remained impervious to reform or repeal. Since 1982 this giveaway has saved MSG about $350 million. This kind of greed has no legitimate place in our parks.

The Parks Department does not need a lengthy review of MSG’s application. All that is required is a simple and prompt rejection. If the Parks Department is unable to do so, the time has come to give consideration to removing Flushing Meadows Corona Park from its jurisdiction and turn it over to a professional parks manager. Redressing misuse of FMCP is long overdue. Finally, it should be noted Mayor de Blasio has the power to prevent this intrusion.

Benjamin M. Haber


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