By Bill Parry
Borough President Melinda Katz has launched a pre-emptive strike against the city Parks Department and three entertainment giants that are seeking to use Flushing Meadows Corona Park for paid-admission music festivals this summer. Madison Square Garden, AEG Live and Founders Entertainment have all filed applications with the city to close off large portions of the park in order to stage events.
“Without a fair policy in place, I remain opposed to any applications from for-profit organizations to run paid-admission events in Flushing Meadows Corona Park,” Katz said. “The absence of a revised policy, including a set selection criteria and process approved by the community, renders the process arbitrary and unfair. Cutting off public access to our treasured parks flies in the face of the very principle behind our parks, which is space designated for public access and equity.”
The same three companies attempted to stage music festivals in Flushing Meadows Corona Park last summer, but their applications were denied after fierce opposition from Katz and numerous civic associations. Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver said he would explore new rule-making to create an appropriate framework for approving large-scale multi-day events in the park, including limits on the potential number, scale and nature of any such events so as not to have an unreasonable impact on the park and its users.
These new rules have not been established as the Parks Department reviews the applications. The city has until Dec. 19 to approve permits for the entertainment giants.
“I urge the Parks Department to reject any and all such applications until a city policy on whether and how we shut down Flushing Meadows Corona Park for paid-admission events is established,” Katz said.
Adhering to current rules, the Parks Department hosts hundreds of large-scale events in parks across the five boroughs, including demonstrations, concerts and major productions such as the Global Citizens Festival, Panorama, the Governor’s Ball, and AIDS Walk NYC, every year.
“Following a thorough review, NYC Parks is confident that our existing rules strike the right balance between accommodating exciting special events in our parks and preserving park spaces for all New Yorkers to relax, explore and play,” Parks spokeswoman Meghan Lalor said.
That is not good enough for Katz, who argues the park hosts thousands daily in the summer for outdoor activities like soccer, softball, tennis, cricket, bicycling, family picnics, BBQs, birthdays, wedding and other special events, which would be shut down for up to two weeks for each event. Plus crowds of 75,000 people would place a strain on over-capacity transit, roads and infrastructure all while profiting the entertainment giants.
“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,” she said. “It has never been done before in Queens, and without a fair city policy approved by the community to properly shape this significant precedent, we should not start now.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr