By Bill Parry
Madison Square Garden announced Monday that it is seeking to host a three-day music festival at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in June that would have a world-class lineup of talent and serve as a showcase for the culture and diversity of the city.
The proposal comes one month after industry giant AEG Live approached the city Parks Department about bringing a large-scale Coachella-style music festival to the same park in the same month.
Borough President Melinda Katz quickly raised the caution flag about for-profit organizations shutting down major portions of the park to the public in order to accommodate paid-admission events, something she said has never happened in Queens before.
“While public events of any scale that enhance our borough are encouraged, I take issue when it is at the expense of cutting off public access to our treasured parks like Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which is enjoyed by thousands of families and residents every week in the summer months,” Katz said. “Doing so without a public review process would fly in the face of the very principle behind our public parks, which is space designated for public access and equity.”
MSG made a commitment to minimizing the proposed festival’s impact on park operations, as well as to assuring a positive and lasting impact on the community. The sports and entertainment giant promised that all of the park’s soccer fields would remain entirely operational both leading up to and during the festival, and the schedule would not conflict with Mets home games at Citi Field.
Following the festival, MSG said it would make significant investments in the park’s restoration. To further sweeten the proposal, the corporation promised to donate tickets to Queens residents to both the festival and summer events at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden.
“Madison Square Garden has been at the center of New York life for more than 135 years,” MSG President and CEO David O’Connor said. “We live here, we work here and we have a strong connection with generations of New York fans who have attended our sports and entertainment events. There’s no one as committed to, or more capable of, creating a world-class festival than we are.”
The company submitted an application with the Parks Department, which will review the proposal and provide feedback to MSG in the coming months. In the meantime, MSG will finalize its plan and work with the city and stakeholders on all facets of the festival.
Katz warned that if the applications were granted to both companies, it would be displace several standing homegrown events enjoyed by tens of thousands of Queens residents, including the annual World’s Fair Anniversary Festival and the Louis Armstrong Festival as well as Mets games.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr