It was a great triumph for the people of Queens when public opposition, led by civic activists and echoed in community newspaper editorials and internet blog posts, defeated the misguided plan to build a professional soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
The vast wealth of the New York Yankees and their business acumen also were key, as the team made a deal with Major League Soccer that the Mets had declined, meaning the stadium will probably be built in the Bronx, if anywhere.
The plan to steal more Flushing Meadows parkland and give it to the superrich Arabian prince who will be the soccer team’s chief owner is dead. Dead, dead, dead. City Councilman Leroy Comrie, the Queens delegation’s leader and the Council’s deputy majority leader, pronounced it so months ago (not that his colleagues in government did much to stop it; that was left to the people). He was right to do so.
But it seems that our likely next mayor, Bill de Blasio, didn’t get the memo. When asked about the stadium proposal at Tuesday’s mayoral debate, de Blasio made some populist-sounding statement about halting giveaways to big corporations — note that Mayor Bloomberg was ready to hand over 13 acres of our crown jewel park for a dollar! — but then, astonishingly, said that if a stadium would bring in money for upgrades to Flushing Meadows, the idea is worth discussing.
It was astonishing because for one, the plan is dead. Dead, dead, dead. Someone tell Bill.
And it was astonishing because de Blasio himself had gone out of his way to state his opposition to the idea earlier in the campaign. That was point one of a three-point plan he announced to protect the park. “The era of giving away prime land to commercial interests at bargain basement prices must come to an end,” he said at the time.
Of course, that was when he was locked in a race with several fellow Democrats, each trying to be the most progressive, grassroots leader of the people. Now, perhaps, de Blasio wants to move toward the center, not his home territory.
His Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, got it right at the debate, saying the stadium just doesn’t belong in the park and noting that the city doesn’t have enough green space as it is.
Lhota, however, is going to lose, barring some truly major unforeseen event. De Blasio will be New York’s 109th mayor. He’s got a lot of plans to improve our quality of life, but they’ll all cost money. He’d better forget the idea that a dime of it will come from building a stadium in our damn park.