As evidence grows to demonstrate the folly of building a professional soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows, I would like to suggest my own backyard as an alternative. As a longtime resident of Ravenswood Houses, I would like to see my neighborhood prosper economically, creating jobs and cultural venues close to my home.
Less than a year ago and only a mile away from Lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn parcel known as Atlantic Yards was reborn as Barclays Center. The basketball arena has quickly demonstrated itself as an economic engine, attracting not only the Nets basketball franchise, but also the Islanders hockey team and top headliners in the music industry.
I believe much of the arena’s success is derived from its location above a major hub for the subway, buses and a Long Island Rail Road terminal. In addition, it is within a mile of downtown Manhattan and even closer to downtown Brooklyn, a burgeoning business district in its own right. It is an arena accessible to everyone from the metropolitan region.
Contrast the Barclays Center with the proposed Flushing Meadows location, tucked deep inside Queens, accessible by only one subway and a railroad line, in a location that would encourage driving rather than public transit, with three highways surrounding it — far from centers of commerce, situated atop landfill with a high water table.
Now imagine Major League Soccer in Long Island City, within proximity of four subway lines. Sitting atop a rail yard, the arena would be accessible to fans from across Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. Within minutes of Midtown, it would easily attract an affluent clientele that could also contribute to the hotels, restaurants and arts institutions in the surrounding neighborhoods. At the same time, being adjacent to the 7 subway line, the arena would also attract the working-class fan base from the borough’s Hispanic neighborhoods.
With Manhattan as a backdrop, the arena would be instantly recognizable and attract not only enough fans, concertgoers and conventioneers to make it profitable, but maybe it could even lure the Jets football team back to the borough of their origin.