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Queens Park Alliance to Open Board to More Neighborhoods to Settle Lawsuit

By Katie Honan | August 18, 2017 4:57pm | Updated on August 21, 2017 9:54am
 The lawsuit was filed by Councilman Rory Lancman, who said the alliance didn't fully represent the park.
The lawsuit was filed by Councilman Rory Lancman, who said the alliance didn't fully represent the park.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

CORONA — Representatives from more neighborhoods around Flushing Meadows-Corona Park will get a seat at the table deciding the park's future — part of an agreement to settle a lawsuit that alleged political favoritism among the group, which oversees $10 million.

People who live in neighborhoods including Flushing, Kew Gardens Hills and Forest Hills currently have no official political representatives on the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Alliance, which decides on the distribution of funds from a 2013 agreement to expand the United States Tennis Association's facilities in the park.

The suit was filed in 2016 by Councilman Rory Lancman, who represents Kew Gardens Hills in the southern part of the park, and Monica Corbett, the president of the Pomonok Residents Association.

Lancman alleged the group's members were chosen via political favoritism, saying the board was filled with allies of Mayor Bill de Blasio. 

"Flushing Meadows-Corona Park belongs to the public, and the public has a right to a transparent funding process and their full say in how funding decisions are made,” Lancman said in a statement last year.

“Instead, the de Blasio administration has created yet another shadowy quasi-governmental entity to evade public scrutiny and reward its political allies with governmental favors."

The suit was settled by the city amicably, and they agreed to add members representing four additional City Council districts that surround the park, according to the Parks Department.

Lancman said Friday he was "very pleased" with the resolution.

"Our constituents all use and care deeply about the park, and I look forward to working together to bring resources to Flushing Meadows to make it the truly great park it was meant to be," he said.

A spokesman for the city's law department said they expanded the board to get "broader community representation" and were also pleased with the result. 

Representatives of the board will propose changes to the bylaws at the Oct. 13 board meeting to add appointees of each new council district, officials said. Those districts include Lancman's, as well as Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, Councilmen Peter Koo and Councilman Paul Vallone's districts.

The mayor will also appoint two more board members, bringing the board from 15 to 21 people. 

The Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Alliance was formed two years ago as part of a deal struck with USTA in 2013 over its park expansion. The tennis group agreed to pay $10.05 million to the city in exchange for the expansion, and a park conservancy would be formed to distribute the money and raise additional funds.

The 2013 deal was brokered by Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who is also a board member.

She made a surprising announcement earlier this year that she would not be running for re-election, and her seat on the alliance board will likely be filled by whoever replaces her in office, officials said.