Mayoral candidates on an M.L.S. stadium in Queens: Meh

The candidates at Cooper Union. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Nine candidates running to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg had next to nothing to say on Monday evening about a controversial proposal to build a Major League Soccer arena in the middle of the largest park in Queens.

On Monday, Earth Day, the mayoral candidates appeared at a forum hosted by the New York League of Conservation Voters and held at the Great Hall at the Cooper Union, where President Abraham Lincoln delivered the "right makes might" address that helped propel him to the White House.

At one point well into what was a largely uneventful mayoral forum, moderator Brian Lehrer, of WNYC, asked the candidates to raise their hands if they were "solidly for the stadium."

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, former comptroller Bill Thompson, former M.T.A. chairman Joe Lhota, former Bronx Borough president Adolfo Carrion, oil and supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, former councilman Sal Albanese, and Doe Fund founder George McDonald all kept their hands in their laps.

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"Is anybody solidly against the stadium?"

No one raised their hands.

"John Liu, you want to talk about your ambivalence here?" Lehrer asked the comptroller.

"When they talk about alienating parkland for a stadium, they always make promises of making sure that the parkland is restored in another different park in the borough or in the city," said Liu. "Unfortunately, under this administration, we have seen a couple of other stadiums that have been built, and the parks facilities and spaces not being made available until the public, until a huge amount of public pressure was put to bear on the administration. So, there's a credibility factor here. And I certainly, in the case of the Major League Soccer stadium that's being proposed, and I do believe the administration is pushing behind the scenes, I do not think overall it's a good idea because they haven't shown us exactly where they want to restore the parkland."

Major League Soccer wants to take 13 acres of Flushing Meadows Corona Park and build a 25,000-seat arena there, with promises to replace that parkland elsewhere.

Bloomberg, meanwhile, has named the stadium one of the legacy projects he wants to see underway before his third and final term concludes at the end of the year.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park is poorly maintained but heavily used by residents of the neighborhoods surrounding it. It's already home to the United States Tennis Association, which wants to expand its tennis center there, and the Mets, whose owners want to do the same.

Some local activists have vowed to fight the planned private development on public parkland.