‘Not the only place’: Bloomberg and MLS back away from a Flushing stadium

Bloomberg on Tuesday. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Major League Soccer will indeed form its twentieth team here in New York City, Manchester City owner Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan will indeed be its main owner, along with the Yankees.

But at least one piece of the league's plan seems to have changed. Today, both the league and Mayor Michael Bloomberg backed away from their previously announced plans to put a soccer arena in the middle of Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

"I think that's a wonderful place for it, but it's not the only place," said Bloomberg, during a press conference at the Museum of the Moving Image. "And I'm sure they're going to continue to look and listen, and I just want to make sure that we do get a venue."

Major League Soccer, in a 1 p.m. conference call with reporters, took much the same position.

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"We'll work with our partners to make sure that the community, whichever community it is, their voices are heard," said Yankees president Randy Levine on the conference call, adding that the Yankees had had success building their new stadium in the Bronx, and "Hopefully we can do something somewhere in New York City just as well. I'm sure we can."

"It's pretty clear that the league's preferred site was Queens," said M.L.S. commissioner Don Garber, in response to another question about the future arena's location. "That's why we worked so hard on that. But there's a lot of work that still needs to be done by Man City and the Yankees to get out in the community and meet with folks and then perhaps look at other options."

All of this amounts to a very notable departure from the league's (and the mayor's) former position on the matter.

From the outset, the league had said that it had scoured the city for suitable soccer-arena locations and determined that Flushing Meadows Corona Park, thanks to its proximity to transit and soccer fans, was the ideal choice.

But that choice, while strongly supported by the Bloomberg administration, met with criticism in the media of the alienation of public land for commercial use, and increasingly vocal opposition from parks advocates.

Just last week, the city's major parks advocacy group, New Yorkers for Parks, declared itself opposed to the proposal, calling the portion of Flushing Meadows Corona Park the stadium would occupy "irreplaceable."

"We're unquestionably pleasantly surprised to see in their statements that while they're still looking at Flushing Meadows, they're also considering other sites," the group's executive director, Holly Leicht, told me today.