If construction does go ahead on a proposed soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the problems for Major League Soccer and its 25,000-seat arena may only just be beginning.
What MLS appears not to have considered with its proposed location at Industry Pond is an underground river flowing under the site. Combined with the park’s already high water table, the soccer field could be saddled with significant drainage issues.
In 1939, then-Parks Commissioner Robert Moses drove the Flushing River underground to help create the Pool of Industry in preparation for the 1939 World’s Fair. The pool has since stagnated and polluted, turning into a park eyesore.
Paul Mankiewicz, director of the Gaia Institute, a Bronx-based not-for-profit specializing in ecological engineering, said the underground river would exacerbate issues caused by the water table, which is only five to 10 feet below ground.
“There’s only a certain amount of depth that [storm water] can reach,” said Mankiewicz. “The water can’t drain quick enough.”
Formerly marshland, the park boasts one of the highest water tables in the city. According to Mankiewicz, paving over some areas of the park has squeezed the water table higher in areas with exposed grass, as the water “looks” for avenues to escape and drain into Flushing Bay.
Mankiewicz added that it would be possible to manage the drainage issues, however, noting that the area could be successfully irrigated. He did extensive research on the subject while working to help prepare New York’s 2012 Olympics bid.
An MLS spokesperson said the league has accounted for drainage in its designs. The site will address the high water table by a slight increase in the elevation. The stadium will be structurally sound using the same techniques employed at CitiField and the nearby Aquatic Center, which are built in similar soil in similar water table conditions.