The ongoing saga of Major League Soccer’s proposal to build a stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and the city’s apparent acquiescence in defiling Queens’ crown jewel with yet another massive structure, took two major turns this week.
First, it was announced that in addition to the Arab sheikh who would be the majority owner of the new team that would play there, the New York Yankees would take a 25 percent stake in the franchise. That just adds to our contention that there is no way to justify Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to give our parkland away. Both the sheikh and the Yankees have extremely deep pockets, and if they want to build a stadium somewhere in the city, they can afford to buy the land to do it.
Second, the Queens Chronicle has discovered that the proposal to build the stadium in Flushing Meadows, atop the historical Pool of Industry, may be dead already. Sources say MLS is finally looking at other sites, as it should have been doing all along, because of the fierce opposition its plan encountered from the people of Queens and the severe logistical and engineering problems the site poses in and of itself.
We’re thrilled to report that MLS is now considering other sites. But nothing is set in stone yet, and defenders of the park, from citizens such as Al Centola and Benjamin Haber, to groups such as the Fairness Coalition of Queens and NYC Park Advocates, to community newspapers such as this one, have to keep the pressure on. We must continue to make clear to all involved, especially City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, a key player because that section of the park is in her district, that building the stadium there is a nonstarter.
The Yankees’ buy-in to the planned soccer team, to be called the New York City Football Club, brings to mind a great alternative site: the location of the old Yankee Stadium. It was turned into parkland as promised, but giving away parkland doesn't seem to be a problem for this administration, so why not?
It seems to us the old stadium site would make a fine location for a soccer stadium. Like Flushing Meadows, it’s easily accessed by car, bus or train. It’s got more than enough parking nearby — in fact the Yankees’ parking lot operators are defaulting on their bonds because they’re not getting enough business. And the Bronx, like some of the areas around FMCP, has the kind of demographic mix that promises a strong fan base for a professional soccer team.
It sounds to us like a win-win situation. The mayor wants to give public land away for $1 to the superrich? Let him do it in the Bronx. He wants a new sports stadium to be part of his legacy? Let him put it next to an existing stadium that practically screams legacy due to its team’s storied history. Let the MLS stadium be built on the solid rock that makes up the Bronx, not the soft sand, fill and compressed ash that lie under the surface of Flushing Meadows.
We fully support bringing Major League Soccer to New York City. It would be great to have another major sports franchise here, especially one with extra appeal to so many of our recent immigrants. We don’t like what the sheikh stands for, as a top government official in a backwards country that discriminates against all but the ruling class, but if that’s who the Yankees want to get in bed with, that’s their business.
Our business is promoting and protecting Queens, and we’ll continue doing that for FMCP until it becomes not a matter of great reporting, but one of public record, that the misguided plan to build a stadium there is dead.
This article was corrected to reflect the following change: The site of the old Yankee Stadium is now a public park.