Quinn says a councilman’s anti-sheik soccer-stadium argument raises ‘valid’ questions

Flushing Meadows Corona Park. (jann_on via Flickr)
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Yesterday, a New York City councilman argued that Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi sheik who owns the English Premier League's Manchester City team, should not be allowed to build a soccer arena on city-owned land in Flushing Meadows Corona Park because his country represses gay people.

"The human rights record of that country in particular, where they punish gay people by death and by chemical castration, I felt a moral obligation to speak out on that basis," said Jackson Heights councilman Daniel Dromm yesterday.

Today, I asked Council Speaker Christine Quinn to comment on Dromm's argument.

"I thank him for raising that," said Quinn. "And certainly he's raised very valid questions that all of us have to follow up on ... and my office is talking to Danny about the right way to follow up on those questions."

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Quinn declined to comment, however, on overall city-backed proposal, which would allow Major League Soccer to build a 25,000-seat arena (expandable to 35,000 seats) in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

"The overall plan there is something that's gonna go through [the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure] and I never do comment on my position on ULURP proposals until they come to the Council, and I don't ever get out in front of the local member, because that's not appropriate," said Quinn, referring to Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, in whose district the proposed arena would reside and who has yet to take a position on the matter.

The bid to build an arena in Queens' largest park had already aroused controversy when it was revealed, earlier this week, that the billionaire sheik was in advanced negotiations with the league for New York City's second professional soccer team.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that he would like to see the arena project underway before he leaves office at the end of the year. 

Thus far, none of the candidates running to replace him have taken a position on the project.