Following up on Monday’s skepticism about a Queens MLS stadium really being on the horizon, I have a piece up on the Village Voice website today with some more informed skepticism about the plan to put a $300 million stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The short version: The project still needs to go through the city land-use process, which would likely take a year or more; and before it can even get to that point it needs the support of the local city councilmember, who is currently wary of the deal, in particular how and where replacement parkland would be located. Also, the Mets owners hate it, and they’re the kind of 800-pound gorilla that can stop something like this in its tracks.
And speaking of the replacement parkland, the New York Daily News has its own skeptical article up today, which in addition to confirming that “it might be years before a MLS team plays its first home game in north-central Queens,” has some details on where MLS is looking to build new public soccer fields to replace those that would be buried under their stadium:
One proposal discussed by state and city officials would call for the Metropolitan Transit Authority to turn over an equivalent amount of land that would be converted to parks.
Friedman outlined two specific proposals — one that would transform the area of the abandoned Flushing airport, and another transformation closer to Forest Hills near the abandoned Long Island Railroad lines.
“We’ve got to find land in roughly the same area,” Bloomberg said. “There is land on an MTA site, which everybody said, ‘Let’s get that.’ I have not talked to (MTA chairman) Joe Lhota, and I don’t know how practical it is, and how much Joe needs that land for other things. Before we go spending or taking away Joe Lhota’s land, maybe we should ask him.”
Both of those sites have some major problems. Flushing Airport, which closed in the 1980s, is actually in College Point, not Flushing, and pretty much inaccessible by subway, which would make it a lousy option for the soccer leagues from throughout Queens that currently play in Flushing Meadows. The abandoned LIRR tracks — part of the long-disused Rockaway Line — are in a somewhat more accessible location, but they’re also a mile long and 100 feet wide, and there’s already talk about using them as a greenway and hiking trail. Plus, the ever cash-strapped MTA would presumably want something out of any deal, which would only increase the cost of the whole project, already at $300 million for the stadium construction plus $100 million for an expansion franchise.
So: This stadium may eventually happen, but it’s still very early in the game. The only thing we can be sure of: Don’t believe any “exclusives” in the New York Post.
[UPDATE: MTA chair Joe Lhota tells Capital New York: “If we have a piece of property that’s not determined to be used for a future transit need and we own it and it’s available yes, we’re in the business of shedding assets to help us financially. And under the law we can sell assets as long as it’s a fair market value.” In other words: Yes, they’re damn sure going to want something out of any deal.]