Katz: Lack of local input dooms Flushing Meadows concerts (for now)

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

They should have asked Queens residents what they wanted.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz charged on Thursday that the city’s rejection of proposed for-profit music festivals at Flushing Meadows Corona Park stemmed from a failure of concert organizers to come to Queens communities, make their case and hear the residents’ input.

Speaking to members of local media at a Queens Borough Hall roundtable forum previewing her State of the Borough Address on Jan. 21, Katz said that “nobody talked to anyone” in Queens about the proposed festivals, “and I think that’s a big deal.”

Goldenvoice, the organizers of the Coachella music festival, and Madison Square Garden had submitted competing applications to bring large-scale music festivals to Flushing Meadows this summer. Katz spoke out against both plans and three similar festival applications submitted to the city, expressing concerns about a lack of community input on the matter and the potential temporary loss of parkland for the duration of a festival.

Two of the failed proposals would have “ostensibly shut the park down,” Katz said, denying local residents the opportunity to use Flushing Meadows Park for several days before, during and after the festivals’ conclusion.

She applauded Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s Parks Department for rejecting all music festival applications for Flushing Meadows Park, but did not rule out that Flushing Meadows could host a large music festival someday if proper conditions are met.

Specifically, Katz called upon the city to create a vetting process that involves community members affected by the concert. The process would also give the city the ability to limit the amount of time and park space the festival would occupy.

“I think we need to have a publicly vetted process and hear from the community about what they would like to see there,” Katz said. “We also need to know how many times a year we want to do that. I don’t know the right answer, but I do know that you can’t find the right answer unless you talk to the communities.”

Meanwhile, the park and other public spaces in Queens are welcome to host free concerts sponsored by local organizations and elected officials. Katz noted that her office sponsored an entire free concert series last year.

The borough president also addressed upgrades at a Flushing Meadows fixture: the New York State Pavilion and Tent of Tomorrow, both remnants of the 1964-65 World’s Fair. In 2015, Katz noted, volunteers from local contracting unions painted the Tent of Tomorrow “American cheese yellow” in an effort to make the weather-beaten structures look brighter.

Katz said $10 million has been allocated to renovate the pavilion’s steel infrastructure, stairs and electrical equipment. The contract will be awarded to a company within the next few months and work will begin soon thereafter.

Meantime, she noted, contracts have been secured to have the pavilion as well as the Unisphere and Queens Museum externally illuminated later this year.



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