Bloomberg to Major League Soccer: We still want your soccer arena

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The proposed site of a soccer stadium in Queens. (d.p.Hetteix via Flickr)
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Last week, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber issued a warning of sorts to the City of New York: If his league's proposal for a new soccer stadium in the middle of Flushing Meadows Corona Park isn't approved, the league will try to build an arena in some other location instead.

"If we're not successful we'll throw our hands up, and it'll be far sooner than three years we throw our hands up," Garber told reporters. "Then we'd take a step back and see if there's another market. Three years is too long. I don't want to put a year limit on it. But if it's not making progress, the time will come. There's a lot of activity in other markets."

The league is proposing to build 25,000-seat arena in heavily used, poorly maintained Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens' largest. The project has drawn opposition from open-space advocates already alarmed by two other big commercial projects within the park's boundaries: a prospective expansion of the United States Tennis Association's National Tennis Center and a mall proposed by a joint venture of Sterling Equities and Related Companies.

The league has promised to fix up the soccer fields that surround the site of the proposed arena, and to replace the 13 acres it would need for the project with parkland elsewhere.

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Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, whose district includes the site and whose decision on whether to support the stadium could prove crucial, has suggested that her support for the project will be contingent, at least in part, on M.L.S. committing to regular, ongoing financial contributions to maintenance of the rest of the park.

Today, I asked the mayor at a press conference about affordable housing in Hunters Point if he thought the league would in fact have to look at markets other than New York City.

"My hope is we get it done," said the mayor, who routinely names the project as one he'd like to see underway before his term expires at the end of the year. "It would be wonderful for New York City. There's an enormous number of soccer fans in this city. They would love it. The proposal is to build it on one part of Flushing Meadow Park which isn't really used very much and isn't in good shape. And it's another use for parkland that I think is appropriate. And we can find some other space, we think, and do some other things. But a venue that size would be absolutely great for New York City and hopefully it'll get done."