Soccer officials talk to Bronx on stadium
By Sarina Trangle

Major League Soccer seems to have dropped its bid to build a stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and has set its sights on the Bronx.

Earlier this year, the community gave a cold reception to MLS’s plans for a 25,000-seat stadium on 13 acres of parkland. Now that the New York Yankees and an Abu Dhabi Sheik have purchased a soccer team franchise and begun negotiations for a stadium just south of the Yankees’ Bronx facility, the Flushing Meadows proposal seems to have stalled into a moot endeavor.

Megan Montalvo, communications director for City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), said her office has not heard from MLS officials or the owners of the new team — the New York City Football Club — for months.

“They have not been communicating with us. It’s pretty much they know they’re going to the Bronx,” Montalvo said.

MLS, the city Parks Department and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

But John DeSio, communications director for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., described plans across the Harlem River as “very serious.”

“There was a proposal put forward,” DeSio said, noting that Diaz does not have an opinion on the matter yet. “The borough president, right now, is having meetings with different groups of people to see what they think.”

The migration of the proposed stadium has pleased park advocates, who were outraged that a private sports venture could cut into greenspace.

Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates, said the organization’s sources in City Hall called the Flushing Meadows plan dead this spring.

“We’re confident and it’s obviously the sensible thing to do,” Croft said.

He noted that Flushing Meadows Corona Park has been shrinking at the expense of commercial venture such as Shea Stadium and the United States Tennis Association.

“It’s like the Parks Department is free land for everybody. It’s absurd,” Croft said. “It wasn’t wanted. It wasn’t needed.”

“It was an irresponsible project to begin with …. That park has very slowly but surely been eaten away by purely commercial businesses, including Shea Stadium, and the USTA’s now expanding and they want to build the largest mall in the city in part of the parking lot. So this would be yet another one.”

Will Sweeney said the Fairness Coalition of Queens, which monitors proposed design changes in and near Flushing Meadows Corona Park, said the prior location was ill-conceived.

“We’re hopeful that they’re not going to use parkland and that they’ve turned their attention away from Flushing Meadows,” he said.

It is unclear whether New York City Football Club will encounter green pastures in the Bronx.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has said he has concerns about tax breaks and other incentives included in the deal Bloomberg’s administration has been hashing out with New York City Football Club officials.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.

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