Never before have so many projects been proposed at one time and these include three stadiums, two parking garages and a shopping mall all within the 1,266-acre Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Mayor Bloomberg and owners of sports teams are dangling prospects of jobs and money for the city and money for improvements to Flushing Meadows Park. Many of our elected officials instead of protecting our parkland are chomping at the bit to get on the gravy train and give it away. They’ve used the excuse of neglect and lack of use as valid reasons to sell off various areas of Flushing Meadows Corona Park instead of improving those neglected areas and making them productive park property.
1. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) wants to expand its property it leases from the NYC Department of Parks by almost one acre. They plan on building two stadiums, one for 15,000 people and one for 8,000. They also want to build two parking garages for 692 spaces for cars. They would like to attract 10,000 more people to the US Open Tennis, which runs two weeks a year. The expansion will mean that 422 mature trees will be cut down and sidewalks around the center will be widened to accommodate the extra crowds. It is expected to cost up to $500 million.
2. A soccer stadium for a professional team is to be built on 13 acres where the “Fountain of the Planets” now sits at a cost of $300 million and will seat 30,000 people with an option to expand another 10,000 people in the future.
3. If all of this weren’t enough, adding insult to injury the Mets owners feel they don’t need all the parking spaces at the Citifield lot and would like to build a 1.5 million square foot shopping mall there that would require an additional 42 acres of land. For the owners of the Mets to say they don’t need all those parking spots why is it when there are games and concerts that cars park all over the grass and shuttle buses bring people from all over the park. Even grassy areas have been paved over to create more spaces. With all the stores in Corona, Jackson Heights and Flushing why do we need stores in our park? Why not plant more grass and trees and return the area back to parkland? Oh I forgot there’s no profit in that.
In 1993 the USTA was allowed to expand their property from 21 acres to 42 acres and they promised never to ask for another expansion. The USTA says they must expand to remain competitive with other tennis venues so they can offer a bigger purse to competitors. Last year they made $275 million and only gave the city $2.5 million, which goes into a general fund not just Flushing Meadow Park.
Yes, the area around the Tennis Stadiums looks nice with manicured lawns and flower arrangements. But nearby Willow Lake, the largest lake in NYC with potential for great beauty, is in pathetic condition due to neglect. The water is dirty and smelly and sometimes the fish die from lack of oxygen. The bike paths are long gone as well as the exercise areas around the lake due to vandalism and neglect. Whenever you write to the NYC Parks Department about improvements they always say there’s just no money available.
The city didn’t even sell off its parkland during the Great Depression in the 1930’s. At that time parks that we enjoy today were being created all over the city. Imagine what the land value is of Central Park. We could probably solve the budget crisis if we could sell off a few acres or put a stadium in the center of that park. They wouldn’t dare touch Central Park but yet Flushing Meadows Park is up for grabs to the highest bidder.
Flushing Meadows Park is the largest park in Queens and the second largest in the city at 1,266 acres. It has played host to the World’s Fair of 1939 and 1964. It was the first home of the United Nations and now has many beautiful and exciting features like the zoo, carousel, science center, golf course, a beautiful indoor swimming pool and ice skating facility. One can rent a bike or learn to sail on Willow Lake. It is the second most used park in the city and usually packed on weekends with people playing sports and other family activities.
Neglect and Disrespect for History
The Aquacade built for the 1939 World’s Fair had seating for 10,000 people and a large swimming pool was torn down because of neglect. The New York State Pavilion, designed by architect Philip Johnson, is also in bad shape from neglect and on the verge of being torn down. The Fountain of the Planets is a mess and the fountains as well as the other fountains by the Unisphere were broken for many years because of continuing neglect and lack of funds.
Are you aware that thirty years ago when Borough President, Donald Manes wanted to build a racetrack around Willow Lake for Formula1 racing cars the people said no and the plans were squashed?
The voice of the people paying the bills, the American taxpayer can make a difference in the future of Flushing Meadows Corona Park by putting pressure on our shortsighted elected officials who don’t care about parkland in Queens and who are always poised to give it to the highest bidder. It has to stop and only we the people can bring that message to fruition.
Here are the key questions we should all answer. Why aren’t our elected officials looking at other parks in all the boroughs of New York City for the big giveaway, starting with lucrative Central Park? Why is the emphasis always on the borough of Queens and Flushing Meadows Corona Park? Why aren’t we the people who are paying the bills more angry at our elected officials for not caring about our future here in Queens?
To get involved and put pressure on all our elected officials in Queens you can get more information about the fight by contacting Save Flushing Meadows Corona Park at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212 9870565. Also call or write your elected officials to tell them you are angry at their irresponsible attitude towards the potentially beautiful Flushing Meadows Corona Park and their eagerness to give it to the highest bidder!