Officials Express Concerns With Proposal to Bring MLS Stadium to Queens

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on December 5, 2012 10:38am 

QUEENS — Public officials are railing against a controversial proposal to build a Major League Soccer in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, citing concerns about traffic, parking and public parkland.

The 25,000-seat stadium would be built on the site of the vast Fountain of the Planets, near Citi Field baseball stadium where the New York Mets play. The National Tennis Center, where the U.S. Open is held, is also in the park.

League officials hope to open the $300 million stadium by 2016, and are negotiating with the Mets to use the parking lot at Citi Field.

But Joseph Hennessy, chairman of Community Board 6, said he worries that soccer fans coming to the stadium won't park at Citi Field, but will instead take spots meant for park-goers and visitors to the Queens Theatre, which is also located in Corona Park.

“This is New York City,” he said. “You leave a space open, a car moves into it.”

Hennessy pointed out that soccer fans who park at the Citi Field lot would have to walk a great distance to reach the MLS stadium — over the subway station and through the park.

“People do not do that,” Hennessy said. “I think it’s a great concern.”

MLS officials tried to ease officials' fears Monday at the Queens Borough Board meeting.

They said they zeroed in on the site because of its proximity to the 7 train and the Long Island Rail Road, and said their hope is that half of the crowd would make its way to the stadium using public transportation.

“We project that about half of the fans will come by public transit,” said Brett Lashbrook, legal counsel for the MLS.

Officials project an estimated 4,000 cars on match nights.

The walk from Citi Field to the stadium, league officials added, would take about seven to nine minutes and the park's paths are wide enough to accommodate stadium-goers. None of the 20 to 25 soccer matches to be held at the stadium each year, Lashbrook added, would be scheduled at the same time as Mets games or during the U.S. Open.

 Major League Soccer is looking to build a 25,000-seat stadium on top of the Fountain of the Planets.
Major League Soccer is looking to build a 25,000-seat stadium on top of the Fountain of the Planets.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

MLS officials, who are in the process of talking to potential owners, said that eventually they hope to expand the stadium to 35,000 seats. Mark Abbott, president of the MLS, said the project would bring economic activity to the area as well as many jobs, including 2,300 construction jobs in addition to 150 full-time and 750 part-time jobs.

Still, elected officials expressed concerns about building the stadium in Queens.

City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) said a similar deal proposed for Manhattan's Central Park would never be approved. He added that while the Fountain of The Planets “is not very attractive,” he said it was “still 10 acres of park space."

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said officials could not give their blessing until a replacement for the parkland can be figured out.

“I don’t think we can even begin to make a responsible decision on this until we know what land exactly will replace it,” he said. “You can put it almost anywhere.”

Abbott said MLS would “replace 100 percent of this parkland elsewhere and create new parkland.” He also said MLS is currently looking at a number of sites that could be used for this purpose.

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