NYC parks group opposes MLS Queens stadium as “simply wrong”

The plan to drop a $300 million MLS stadium on top of more than 12 acres of public parkland in Queens, with the aid of more than $100 million in city tax breaks, picked up another prominent opponent yesterday, as New Yorkers for Parks, which previously hadn’t taken sides on the deal, declared itself in opposition, saying building a soccer stadium in Fushing Meadows-Corona Park would sacrifice “irreplaceable public space” and on game days arriving fans would “overwhelm the park, exacerbating the already significant maintenance challenges this heavily used public space faces.” Wrote NY4P Holly Leicht, the only acceptable solution is to find another location for the project:

To be clear: regardless of the terms of the deal, the design of the stadium, or any offers of replacement parkland, New Yorkers for Parks cannot support a private stadium in the heart of Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The location is simply wrong, and no modification or mitigation can make up for the loss of this vital open space.

Now, the opposition of a parks advocacy group, even one with high-powered real estate executives on its board, may not be a death knell when compared with the oodles of lobbying money that MLS is pouring into this project. Still, it’s just the latest in what’s been a pretty bad month for MLS, public-perception-wise: Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the Manchester City owner who would reportedly own a Queens MLS expansion franchise, and who was supposed to lend an air of legitimacy to the project, instead was criticized not only for seeking public subsidies when he’s an oil billionaire who could pay for a stadium himself, but for being deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, a nation where homosexuality is punishable by either death or chemical castration.

The real battleground here remains the city council, where the local representative, Julissa Ferreras, has been mostly quiet since expressing mixed hopes and concerns about the project when it was first announced last summer. (Her office hasn’t yet responded to an email I sent yesterday asking about her current position on the MLS stadium.) Mayor Michael Bloomberg fired back that parkland isn’t “irreplaceable,” citing as an example Flushing Airport, a decommissioned airfield about two miles away that Bloomberg, um, tried to use for commercial development several years ago before community opposition stopped him, but anyway, it’s practically a park now, right? In any event, though, Bloomberg will be out of office before the nine-month land use process can be completed, even if it starts now, which it won’t. So Ferreras remains a key player here, along with whichever of these folks ends up somehow becoming mayor.

There could still be an announcement from MLS of Sheik Mansour getting awarded a provisional expansion franchise for New York, possibly at Man City’s friendly against Chelsea on May 25. But while that would no doubt garner headlines, the actual approval process remains a long way from the “finish line” that MLS commisioner Don Garber promised was nigh last November.

3 comments on “NYC parks group opposes MLS Queens stadium as “simply wrong”

  1. “on game days arriving fans would “overwhelm the park”

    One- On game day, fans concentrate INSIDE the stadium.

    Two- When they leave the stadium, typical fans are supposed to flood local developement with their money, but we know they don’t, they just go home. If a gleeming shopping mall can’t hold them, would they really stick around a park?

    Three- Aren’t parks supposed to be used? Is a successful park not supposed to be crowded?

    It still may be a stupid idea. The red Bulls have a stupid name, the stadium is in the middle of nowhere, but it is the best stadium in the league, the team is doing well, Henry is a world class star, Cahill and Junhino arew big stars as well, but it’s just not taking off. Not shure “City” whould do any better and the two teams in the same market thing is not doing so well in LA.

  2. @Richard, The LA thing isn’t really a good comparison because the clubs share the same stadium and Chivas USA is a polarizing brand which doesn’t attract fans as well as the Galaxy. I’m iffy on the whole thing. MLS says they will help with the development of a 70 acre park and that the stadium will only take up 13 acres of a 1300 acre park and the development of some soccer pitches in disrepair in flushing park (and it will be built over a fenced off swamp to boot). I really hope NY2 and MLS engage the local communities with events around the stadium as a thank you for letting the club play in the park.

  3. Couple of corrections: The soccer pitches are actually fairly new, they’re just in bad shape because they’re incredibly heavily used. (If they rebuild them elsewhere, those will be in bad shape within a few years as well.) And it’s not a “fenced-off swamp,” it’s an old fountain from the World’s Fair, albeit not much of one.