Op-Ed: Developing the area around Citi Field would offer several community benefits

Citi Field

The start of the baseball season is a special time no matter who you are. But for me, it is another season to continue working on my dream of visiting every major league ballpark with my son.

As we’ve traveled across the country, we’ve noticed every stadium is as unique as the cities they represent. Each one with special attributes that a fan can marvel at and enjoy, but many of the newer stadiums have done something different. They have connected their stadiums to the community around them to build a synergy between the two. They have become an anchor for a transformation around them, spurring economic growth, good jobs, and community benefits.

Visiting these stadiums have given me a new perspective as I arrived back home in Queens. Why have we not done this at Citi Field?

Right now, Citi Field stands in a sea of asphalt, isolated from the surrounding communities and separating them for the waterfront and from each other. Not to mention, as climate change continues to impact us here in Queens, these acres of asphalt lack the infrastructure and ability to mitigate the flooding and heat that will only continue to get worse. This combination imperils this neighborhood in perpetuity as it currently stands.

Building 21st century infrastructure would only enhance our overall efforts to combat climate change in the borough. Moreover, it would allow for growth to connect communities of Queens. Throughout my travels, I have seen waterfront communities benefit from additional park space like in Cincinnati, where a waterfront park adjoins the ballpark — there was lush greenery and giant swings that serve as a respite from the urban landscape between this city and Kentucky. Investment like that here at Citi Field can make our borough more resilient and beautiful for all of us to enjoy.

Parkland is more than just carbon sinks and resiliency. Parks connect communities. When you improve a park or in this case enhance a park, you improve a community. This is an opportunity to build lush, beautiful parkland adjacent to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, but also create a larger community throughout Queens.

In Washington, D.C., I stayed at a hotel two blocks from Nationals Park. My family and I were able to walk to see the Capitol building and national mall, enjoy restaurants and catch a Nationals game all in one day. We made memories that will last a lifetime together. This is what we can build here in Queens.

We have an opportunity to bring real change to Queens and do it the right way. For months, Steve Cohen and his team have been thorough, responsive and thoughtful in their engagement with the fans, and most importantly, the community. I’ve attended multiple visioning sessions and even shared my ideas with Steve himself.

While there are so many great possibilities, there is also a financial reality to all of this. For any project to be long lasting success, we need a way to bring people here year-round and not just on gameday. There is a natural synergy between sports and entertainment that other cities have figured out which we can tap into here. That’s why I’ve been supportive of the options being discussed, including restaurants, bars, and a hotel with a live music venue, convention space and a casino. All of these would make up the economic engine that can finally turn this 50 acres parking lot into something we can all love.

Steve Cohen isn’t willing to stand by when Atlanta or Washington makes moves to bring in talent, he goes out and fights for Queens. We shouldn’t sit idly by either when we have the chance to make our ballpark, and Queens, a better place either.  Ya Gotta Believe!

Costa Constantinides is chief executive officer at Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens and a former City Council member.