Major parks advocacy group opposes soccer arena on ‘irreplaceable public space’

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Flushing Meadows Corona Park. (jann_on via Flickr)
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Calling it an "irreplaceable public space," New Yorkers for Parks this morning came out against a plan to build a soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

"Building a stadium on this site will alter not just the site itself, but the nature of the park altogether," wrote Holly Leicht, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, in a statement that was blasted out to reporters this morning and ran as an op-ed in the Daily News. "The footprint of the arena would be up to 13 acres, but the directly affected acreage, as defined by M.L.S.’s proposed circulation roads and pathways, would be at least double that. On game days, tens of thousands of fans travelling from Citi Field parking lots, the Long Island Railroad and the No. 7 Train would overwhelm the park, exacerbating the already significant maintenance challenges this heavily used public space faces."

Also: "Supporters of the stadium point to the drab condition of the once-iconic Fountain of the Planets and claim building atop this long-neglected space will improve the park. But the current state of this historically significant park – under-resourced and ill-maintained for decades – is no rationale for further privatization."

You can read the whole thing here.

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Leicht's statement reflects the consensus of a high-powered board that includes real estate developer Ron Moelis and Greenberg Traurig's Edward Wallace and is only the latest major vote of no confidence in the stadium plan.

Earlier this month, New York magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson derided the Bloomberg administration's development plans for the park, arguing that "green space isn’t always fungible ...The story of the Citi Field parking lot makes it clear that once we let go of parkland, we’re unlikely to get it back."
Deputy mayor Howard Wolfson, a high-profile advocate for the stadium within the administration, did not respond to a request for comment. 

UPDATE: M.L.S. spokeswoman Risa Heller sent over the following statement:

"Major League Soccer is committed to maintaining Flushing Meadows Corona Park's cherished place in the hearts and minds of Queens residents. We have committed tens of millions of dollars of investment in the park on top of our commitment to replace the community fields and create new parkland to make it a better, more vibrant and vital park for all of its users. We believe, had New Yorkers for Parks been willing to learn the facts about our proposal, and had they consulted more widely with community leaders and park goers themselves, they might have understood that this substantial investment in the Park is a genuine win for the community."

Update: In response to M.L.S., Leicht sent over the following statement:

New Yorkers for Parks’ staff and board heard multiple presentations from both proponents and opponents of the stadium – including Major League Soccer’s consultant, HR&A Advisors. Our organization has been working closely on this issue with community leaders, organizations and residents, as well as the Bloomberg Administration, for nearly a year and looks forward to continuing to work constructively with all parties involved."