Could Flushing Meadows Corona Park become the next festival destination? Big players are fighting over it, while city lacks official policy – QNS.com

Could Flushing Meadows Corona Park become the next festival destination? Big players are fighting over it, while city lacks official policy

Photo: official Coachella website

Last year, the organizers of popular California music festival Coachella announced plans to create a similar event at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Their application was denied, but Goldenvoice, the concert arm of AEGLive, expressed their intent to make the event, titled Panorama Festival, a reality in the summer of 2017.

Goldenvoice began the conversation with city officials in February 2014 with a plan to create Panorama Festival and bring back the bustling energy and relevance that the park held during the 1964 World’s Fair.

“Why do we hold events in Flushing Meadows Corona Park honoring an event that happened 50 years ago? Let’s make one now. It doesn’t make sense to look at the past, celebrate it and then say, ‘but we can’t do it now,’” said Mark Shulman, festival producer at Goldenvoice.

Shulman said organizers have reached out to people who attended the original World’s Fair to conceptualize what the World’s Fair of today would look like. They came up with a concept that includes not only a music component but top tech companies, start-ups, fashion designers and music artists, which would create “only-at-Panorama moments,” he said.

City lacks an official festival policy, the Queens borough president says

In January, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz announced that the city would not issue any permit for festival use because of a lack of “an official city policy.” Katz also argued that the park had never been used by a for-profit company to hold a paid-admission concert.

“Events of any scale that enhance our borough are encouraged,” Katz said in a previous statement. “The use of our public parks, however, need to be publicly vetted and coordinated under an official city policy, because the absence of one renders the entire process unfair.”

It is not clear, however, if the city has created an official policy. According to Sharon Lee, spokesperson for Borough President Melinda Katz, the City Council postponed a hearing on June 2 to discuss this policy.

The mayor’s office directed QNS to the Parks Department, which would help to finalize the process through which organizers can apply for a permit.

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Are you holding a birthday party for 12 kids at Flushing Meadows Corona Park? The application to obtain a permit is the same for a Coachella-like festival.

“Parks reviewed all permit applications thoroughly,” spokesperson Meghan Lalor said. “While we are heartened by the interest in one of Queens’ most historic parks, our primary concern is ensuring the park is available for the many New Yorkers who call Flushing Meadows Corona Park their backyard.”

Parks Department officials said they are exploring the possibility of creating rules and a framework for approving these large, multi-day events. This would include limits on the potential number, scale and nature of these events to limit the impact on the park and provide opportunities for public input.

Shulman also agrees that the process of applying for a permit should be revamped.

“When you go to apply to hold a three-day event in Flushing Meadows Corona Park it is the same application as when you want to hold a birthday party for 12 kids,” Shulman said. “If anything, what we have gone through for the past two and a half years has even shined a light more glaringly on this issue that the city needs to be able to have a process dedicated to these types of events that is outside of the standard permit process.”

Once Goldenvoice did not hear back from the city, organizers moved to file a permit for Randall’s Island because the city typically allows festivals there, he added.

This year, the Panorama Festival will take place at Randall’s Island from July 22 through July 24. Headlining acts include Arcade Fire, Kendrick Lamar, LCD Soundsystem and Sia. Tickets range from $99 for a one-day pass to $319 for a three-day pass.

Shulman added that Flushing Meadows Corona Park was built for events such as these and the recent rise in popularity that Queens is experiencing illustrates the desire for this event.

Elected officials and community groups express support for the festival

Goldenvoice officials say they have worked extensively with community groups to make sure Panorama is not only a “world-class event” comparable to the World’s Fair but one that benefits Queens year-round. Elected officials including Councilwomen Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and Karen Koslowitz, Councilman Peter Koo and U.S. Rep Joseph Crowley have openly expressed support.

Community groups such as Make the Road New York, the Jackson Heights Green Alliance and Alianza de Ligas Latinas de Futbol, a soccer league that frequently uses the park, have also been vocal about wanting the concert to take place.

“Flushing Meadows Corona Park is a magical site,” he said. “It has a tremendous history, a legacy. It was built for large events. In addition, it has a fantastic transportation hub. Also as a borough, Queens on the cultural side has really started to explode. You see more and more concerts, Forest Hills Stadium and the tremendous season that they’re having. It is ripe to happen.”

After Goldenvoice announced interest in holding an event at the park, officials expressed concerns about several components of the festival including what portion of the park would be closed, how long it would be shut to the public and congestion it would cause.

The north portion of the park would be closed for a total of four days, Shulman said, and organizers have met with the NYPD several times to go over logistics. The plan would include about three stages and two tents to be set up near the New York State Pavilion and near the entrance of the park as patrons exit the 7 train.

The Queens Museum, the Queens Zoo and the New York Hall of Science would not be affected, although organizers plan to promote the institutions. This year, every Panorama Festival ticket comes with a free pass to the Ramones exhibit at the Queens Museum.

They have also spoken about donating the tech installations created specifically for the festival to the New York Hall of Science.

“It’s all about driving people in these tremendous institutions,” Shulman said.

Photo: official Coachella website
Photo: official Coachella website

Coachella pumps $700 million into the hosting town’s economy. What would happen in Queens?

Organizers also want to recreate elements of Coachella that have turned Indio, California, from a small city of about 76,000 residents into the “City of Festivals.” According to the Los Angeles Times, about $700 million is pumped into the Coachella Valley economy as a result of Coachella and Stagecoach, another concert run by Goldenvoice.

“[We want people to see] how transformative these events can be for these communities and the huge community benefits that they receive,” said Stuart Marques, a spokesperson for Goldenvoice. “It’s more than just economic, [there is a] three-day health clinic [providing] dental, vision and health services for those in need.”

Shulman said Queens residents would also receive services from a three-day health clinic if organizers were granted a permit by the city.

This year, Panorama Festival will invite local restaurants from east Harlem to sell food on site. Organizers are also working with Manhattan’s Community Board 11 to hire local residents for the three-day event.

A volunteer component will give a free ticket to 100 people who put in 12 hours of volunteer work with local organizations. This year, participating organizations include New York Common Pantry, Randall’s Island Park Alliance, East Harlem Tutorial Program and more.

Next year, Goldenvoice hopes to include organizations such as Queens Museum, New York Hall of Science, the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance and Make the Road New York, which has committed to staffing the health clinic.

Organizers also said they will make a per-ticket donation to the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance.

Though organizers have consulted with elected officials, businesses and other community groups, they have not approached Queens Community Board 4 (CB 4), which serves the area, but plan to do so shortly. CB 4 previously wrote a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Parks Department asking to be looped in on any plans to rent the park out.

“Before we would go to the community boards we’d want to have developed plans,” Shulman said. “Those elements need to start with NYPD, the Parks Department, Office of City Planning and we never got to that place.”

Shulman said they will continue to do community outreach until the city decides whether or not to grant a permit. Official dates have not been discussed and organizers said they want to make sure that the event does not coincide with other existing events at the park.

Photo: official Governors Ball webiste
Photo: official Governors Ball website

Big players in the music industry are waiting to pounce on Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Flushing Meadows Corona Park has been highly coveted by other festival organizers recently, including those behind Governors Ball. The organizers created a petition calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to deny Panorama Festival a permit, arguing that the competition would put them out of business.

“The timing of this proposed event is an aggressive, greedy attempt by AEG to push a small, independent company of born-and-bred New Yorkers out of business and out of the market,” the petition read.

Goldenvoice’s original proposal would hold Panorama Festival only two weeks after Governors Ball, which is held at Randall’s Island during the first week of June. Now, Governors Ball organizers have requested a permit to hold an additional two-day music festival outside of Citi Field on Oct. 1 and 2, the same weekend as the popular Maker Faire, the Daily News first reported.

The company initially announced plans for a four-day festival from Sept. 30 through Oct. 1 last November, according to the Queens Chronicle, but have scaled back the proposal.

According to DNAinfo, the festival by Governors Ball organizers would include four stages for musical performances and local food vendors.

The festival would coincide with the Maker Faire, a science fair and county fair hybrid that attracts thousands of people to the New York Hall of Science.

“We are in the early stages of exploring ways to create a dynamic, local music festival in the heart of Queens this fall,” said Kerri Lyon, spokesperson for Governors Ball. “We hope to have more to say in the coming weeks.”

Shulman argued that the Governors Ball festival at Randall’s Island and Panorama Festival can “absolutely co-exist.”

“Governors Ball sells 50,000 tickets a day, does one weekend and it’s in the largest market place,” Shulman said. “The math doesn’t add up to their position. It was all about, they’re going to go out of business and meanwhile, they’ve since sold to a multibillion-dollar public corporation [Live Nation]. Clearly we did not damage them so significantly.”

Two months after news broke that Goldenvoice was looking to hold a festival at the park, Madison Square Garden (MSG) also announced that they were looking to hold a “world-class” music festival at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The company initially set dates for June 24 through June 26 and said about 40 acts that “represent the diversity of New York” would perform. The Queens Chamber of Commerce and Long Island City Hotel Wyndham Garden wrote a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio throwing their support behind MSG because of the company’s New York City roots.

But after all festival permits for Flushing Meadows Corona Park were denied, MSG has been quiet about any future plans.

“Our event was very real,” Shulman said of Panorama. “While there were other proposals, you’ll notice that when the proposals were denied, only one event still happened because that one existed and the others were imaginary.”

A spokesperson for MSG said the company is still actively working to hold a festival at the park.

“We remain optimistic about the potential of an event in Queens and will continue to work hard to convince the appropriate parties that we can host a festival that the community will love,” the spokesperson said.

Photo: official Governors Ball website
Photo: official Governors Ball website

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