Borough president to Major League Soccer: Forget Queens, build in the Bronx

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Diaz at Yankee Stadium (Diaz via Facebook)
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Yesterday, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. wrote a letter to Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber urging the league to build a stadium in the Bronx.

"As reports have made clear, your league's plans to build a new soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows have stalled and may not be able to be revived," wrote Diaz. "It would appear that there is little enthusiasm for world class soccer in Queens."

In May, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Garber held a big press conference in East Harlem announcing that Manchester City owner Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan and the Yankees would be forming Major League Soccer's 20th franchise here in New York City.

The question of where the team would play was left open.

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The league initially hoped to build a soccer arena in the middle of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and then, as precedent requires, replacing that acreage with new parkland elsewhere.

That plan, while backed by Bloomberg, subjected the league to community criticism and unfavorable media attention.

Both Bloomberg and the team's new owners have since indicated they'll most likely be looking elsewhere.

Diaz would like that alternative site to be in the Bronx.

"My office is ready to assist you in this endeavor," he wrote.

Major League Soccer had no immediate comment.

I asked John DeSio, Diaz's spokesman, if the borough president had held any discussions with M.L.S. about this prospect.

"No, this is the beginning of that process," he said.

DeSio said Diaz does have some ideas about where an M.L.S. stadium could be located in the Bronx, but that it was too early to reveal those ideas to the press.

DeSio does not foresee the same level of controversy accompanying a Bronx stadium, pointing, by way of example, to the community's receptiveness to a new ice-sports center at the Kingsbridge Armory.

He also argued that, like Queens, the Bronx has just the sort of constituency M.L.S. is looking for.

"Soccer is a big sport here," said De Sio. "We have Latino communities that are big on soccer, we have African communities that are big on soccer."

Diaz made a similar point in his letter, writing, "Just this week, a friendly match between the national clubs of Spain and Ireland brought tens of thousands of visitors from all over the region—if not the world—to Yankee Stadium."

Attendance at that game was announced at 39,368.