Soccer coaches often say controlling the ball and dictating the pace of play are integral to winning games. It appears Major League Soccer has adopted the same tactics when it comes to its proposed 25,000-seat stadium in the heart of Flushing Meadows Corona Park. This paper took a look at the league’s initial proposal and gave it casual backing. No more.
Simply put, we cannot understand why the league insists on setting up shop on public property, in a park utilized on any given weekend by thousands of borough residents. This atop a whole litany of lingering concerns.
We are dismayed by a largely muddled outreach process embodied most recently by allegations of muted dissent at a “town hall meeting” on Tuesday. Our editor found troubling evidence the event was something more akin to a pep rally than an airing of ideas. A sign-in sheet was allegedly used to filter out the rabble. Pro-stadium groups were given an early invite and priority seating. And the theatrics of a crowd draped in MLS regalia and holding up pro-stadium poster boards was largely fabricated.
Questions about the feasibility of building a stadium on a swamp will remain until MLS explains in detail how it will manage to build a stadium in an area where the water table is three feet below the surface at most, according to the 2006 U.S. Geological Survey map. Those concerns are only magnified by the proposed parking facility — not for public use — below the stadium, which we presume will be a wonder of water-repellent engineering.
The league is also ignoring the lack of parking for fans, a problem anyone who frequents the park during the U.S. Open can attest to. While we respect MLS’s traffic advisor, our own contributor Sam Schwartz, his projections that 50 percent of fans will take mass transit still leaves thousands of people driving to games. Where will they park?
Most troubling is the still-unspecified replacement parkland, a major sticking point for many. Yes, the league is required to replace every inch of parkland, but there are no rules mandating it be in our borough. MLS is in the throes of a search, though that process has been closed to public input.
We’re assuming the parkland it ultimately chooses will be safe, clean, close to a populace that will utilize it and accessible. So … why not build the darn stadium there?
The league’s argument that the world’s sport needs a home in the heart of our borough simply doesn’t score many goals with us. We still don’t have a complete list of other sites MLS was considering before it chose our park. Why not consider the myriad of pesky, unused sites around our borough, places that need an infusion of life and vitality? Something like the old Flushing Airport, Aqueduct Racetrack or the old home of the U.S. Open in Forest Hills?
We’re left wondering how serious the league is about its repeated odes to collaboration and community input.
This is not a call to end all discussions of an MLS stadium in our borough. Far from it.
The stadium’s estimated $60 million in annual economic activity, 150 permanent jobs and host of other economic benefits are nothing to overlook, in any economic climate.
But the cost is too much. It’s a price that rejuvenated soccer fields, fixed fountains and an updated water management infrastructure cannot cover. Besides, don’t we pay taxes so the Parks Department can handle those improvements? The city’s silence on this issue is deafening.
Commissioner, you’re a Queens guy. C’mon. It’s our park. It’s yours too. You’re welcome to use it — like the rest of us.
It’s time you and your league go back to a map and find another location.