Unions Back Proposed MLS Stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park

By Paul DeBenedetto on February 7, 2013 2:43pm 

 MLS is looking to build a 25,000-seat stadium on top of the Fountain of the Planets.
MLS is looking to build a 25,000-seat stadium on top of the Fountain of the Planets.
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mlssoccer.com

QUEENS — Three powerful unions announced their support Thursday for a proposed Major League Soccer Stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The Hotel Trades Council, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and service employees union 32BJ SEIU cited job creation as the reason for their support of the stadium. By MLS estimates, the stadium could create up to 2,300 construction jobs, as well as 160 full-time jobs and 750 part-time jobs.

“We are thrilled to have the support of unions who represent hundreds of thousands of working men and women, said MLS spokeswoman Risa Heller. "They understand, as we do, what an important economic engine this stadium will be. We look forward to working with them to make it a reality."

In addition to the creation of new stadium jobs, the union leaders argued that restaurants, bars and retail stores would see more businesses and hire new employess.

The support of the three unions joins that of local politicians Assemblyman Francisco Moya and State Sen. Jose Peralta, who have touted the project as both a boon to the local economy and as an important cultural touchstone of the surrounding area's largely Hispanic population.

But opponents of the plan, including a group of local organizations called the Fairness Coalition of Queens, have called the potential development a "land grab," taking away more than 10 acres of public parkland to build the stadium.

And some are worried that the jobs created by the development won't be what they call quality jobs.

"Union jobs and saving Flushing Meadows Corona Park are not mutually exclusive," Hilary Klein from the Fairness Coalition said in an email. "What's more, we should be very careful about MLS's promises about the number of jobs that will be created. There is a well-documented history of this type of development project creating far fewer jobs than were promised."

But union leaders said on Thursday that they have been working with MLS since the beginnings of the proposal, and that the league was "committed" to creating good jobs.

"The economy in Queens is still hurting," Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said in a statement.

"The recession is still taking a toll on middle and lower income families, and it would be a shame for Queens to be shut out of such a tremendous opportunity for good jobs.”

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