By Benjamin M. Haber
Parks are the life blood of congested urban societies. While Flushing Meadows Corona Park is the second-most-used park in New York City, mostly by the underprivileged, it is also the most abused—pock-marked with all sorts of structures, alien to legitimate public park use, that would never be permitted in Central Park or indeed in any other municipal park. Nor should it. The list of abuses include Terrace on the Park, Citi Field and its parking lot, the USTA Tennis Center and its newly added, architecturally ugly dome. There was also a previous attempt to construct a Grand Prix race track around Meadow Lake, an attempt to construct a soccer stadium and a current attempt to build a huge mega shopping mall on the Citi Field parking lot, which is parkland.
The culprits responsible for the above are former mayors Dinkins and Bloomberg and possibly current Mayor De Blasio, former Queens borough presidents Manes and Marshall and, most of all, the vast majority of City Council members, all of whom have operated on the basis that their constituents are the real estate moguls and the privileged and not the little people.
An example of the above is the current attempt for a 1.4-million-square foot shopping mall on the Citi Field parking lot, which included a raid on the city treasury and for all practical purposes the demise of the 2008 approved Willets Point redevelopment plan. The Council and its prime mover, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst), negotiated and supported a plan that gave the mega-mall real estate developers Willets Point property, which was acquired by the city for tens of millions of dollars, for $1, about $150 million in subsidies and tax abatements.
Most egregious of all is approval to allow the postponement of construction of affordable housing in the Willets Point property, which was a significant part of approval of the 2008 redevelopment plan, until 2025, some 17 years after it was approved in 2008. To nail the coffin shut, the developers were given the right to walk away from any obligation to construct the housing by forfeiting $35 million, an amount that to the billionaire developers would be akin to the tip one gives the youngster who delivers their groceries, and walk away they will.
At long last there is a breath of fresh air in the City Council chambers in City Councilman Rory Lanceman (D-Hillcrest), who has initiated a lawsuit against the city and the Alliance For Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which he claims was formed to funnel money from developers and other for profit entities in exchange for the use of park resources.
(Lancman sues over funds for parkland-Timesledger July 8-14, 2016)
The time has come, long overdue, for a full investigation into who and why Flushing Meadows Corona Park has become the dumping ground for all sorts of illegitimate public park use. I am sure the public supports and thanks Council member Lancman to let right be done.
Benjamin M. Haber