While the city and community mull over plans to build a 25,000-seat soccer stadium on the northern edge of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, some members of Community Board 7 say any potential deal could kill two birds with one stone.
At the heart of the matter lies Flushing Airport, a 60-acre site in College Point that was once home to the city’s busiest airport, but now is an overgrown and largely barren field.
The suggestion? Use a controversial deal to at least right one perceived wrong, and turn the oft-lamented and underutilized site into parkland.
Major League Soccer recently announced plans to build a stadium on the site of what is currently the Pool of Industry in FMCP, home to the former Fountain of the Planets during the 1961-65 World’s Fair.
The stadium will take up between 10 and 13 acres, according the league’s plans, which must be matched by turning land elsewhere within the city into parkland.
“They’re looking for 13 acres? We’ve got 13 acres right here and more that they can use,” said CB7’s Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian.
The question of who exactly picks the replacement land can send one for a loop. MLS guided the Chronicle to the City’s Economic Development Corporation, which pointed to the Mayor’s Office, who then suggested reaching out to the Parks Department. The outcome of the search was a blanket statement from a Parks spokesman about due diligence in vetting MLS’s plan — with no answers about the replacement parkland.
Early indications point to two sites for possible alienation and conversion into parkland: a spot of land along the Flushing river and another unused strip within Rego Park.
Apelian, whose suggestion is backed by several other members of the board, said neither is suitable for use as parkland. The Flushing River site is a difficult-to-access barren swamp next to a batch of water filled with detritus and, the other is so far removed from Flushing Meadows Corona Park it would represent an outright loss to the park’s current users, he said.
The vice chairman portrayed the MLS plan as a push by the Bloomberg administration to shuffle through any last-minute development before he leaves office in 2013. The plan must undergo Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, as well as pass the state legislature since it involves parkland.
While Apelian said he had no stance on the plan as of yet, he would not rubber stamp the idea even if he ultimately supports it.
“When the administration wants a huge amount from us, we want something in return,” he said.
The site of the old Flushing Airport, located at Linden Place and 23rd Avenue, has been a source of wrangling soon after its closure in 1984. The pumps that once kept the former runways dry were shut off, allowing wetlands and marshes to creep in. An estimated 30 to 40 acres of the site is actually suitable for development.
Apelian, along with Chairman Gene Kelty, have pushed the city to create “soft recreation” at the location, with the City’s Economic Development Corporation balking at the idea.
“They’re looking to put buildings over there,” he said. “We don’t have sufficient infrastructure. Why not consider it for parkland?”