Debate grows over large-scale music festivals in Flushing Meadows Corona Park

By Bill Parry

As the city Parks Department reviews permit applications from concert promoters hoping to use Flushing Meadows Corona Park for large-scale music festivals this summer, the debate is growing louder. Several elected officials have spoken in favor of the festivals, while a number of civic associations, community boards and the Queens Civic Congress voiced their concerns.

Borough President Melinda Katz has expressed her reservations to the de Blasio administration about renting public parkland for paid-admission events.

“The merits—or lack thereof—of any existing individual application cannot be fairly considered in the void of official policy on renting out our public parks,” Katz spokeswoman Sharon Lee said. “The borough president has met with five different interested parties, each of whom would like to rent the park next summer for various amounts of time.”

AEG Live, Madison Square Garden, Live Nation, and Founder’s Entertainment have been publicly mentioned as possible promoters.

Of those, Goldenvoice, a division of AEG Live, appears to have the most solid support for its Panorama Music Festival, planned for the weekend of June 17. U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and several City Council members announced their support last week.

“The Panorama Music Festival will provide a fantastic opportunity for Queens to take its rightful place as a New York City showcase,” Crowley said. “I am excited to help bring a world-class music, technology, food and art festival to Flushing Meadows Corona Park.”

Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) said she was confident the festival would be a boon for Queens, while Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said it would bring much needed jobs and tourism to the area.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) called Goldenvoice a model partner for the community.

“They have been engaging the community for the last two years,” she said. “Panorama’s producers listened to the community concerns and adjusted their application to reflect the communities’ desires.”

Organizers said Panorama would provide a donation per paid ticket to the newly formed Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance. Goldenvoice also pledged to hire local workers and support area businesses by working with restaurants and food trucks inside the event to showcase the “diverse and exceptional” cuisines in Queens.

As it does at the Coachella Festival in Southern California, Goldenvoice will sponsor a three-day community medical clinic providing free health, dental and vision services, capable of serving more than 1,500 area residents.

Make the Road New York, the Jackson Heights Green Alliance, and the Alianza de Ligas Latinas de Futball, a consortium of 14 leagues that play soccer in the park, all endorsed the plan. Not everyone is convinced. On Dec. 8, Community Board 4 voted unanimously against renting out Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The following day, Community Board 6 voted overwhelmingly to send a letter to the mayor strongly opposing the use of the park for festivals.

“Borough President Katz has consistently expressed concern that policy and public vetting must come first,” Lee said. “In addition, she has been consistent that fencing off 200 acres in the center of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which thousands of families consider their backyard, is vastly too big in size and scope and would have a devastating impact on the surrounding communities.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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