Early on Tuesday night, [Bill DeBlasio] was asked about Major League Soccer’s attempt to place a Spaceship-Enterprise-size soccer stadium in the midst of Flushing Meadows, Queens’s densest and most heavily used park. He cleared his throat with some populist rumbling about city tax giveaways. Then he allowed that, well, perhaps, maybe, a pro soccer stadium might raise the money needed to give that dowdy dowager of a park a face-lift.
It was left to Mr. Lhota to make the point that, perhaps fortunately for Flushing Meadows, appears to have won the day: Our urban parks are a precious patrimony, and in this densest of American cities it is rarely wise to auction off greensward. If Flushing Meadows-Corona Park needs money, and enough three-piece-suit-wearing worthies cannot be found to toss together a conservancy, a mayor should find a way to pay for that park.
“It shouldn’t be in that park,” Mr. Lhota said of the stadium. “We don’t have enough park space in this city as it is.”
August 28, 2013
Queens Civic Congress Testimony to New York City CouncilConcerning Proposed Willets Point West Mall at Flushing Meadows Corona Park
The Queens Civic Congress would like to say up front that the proposed Willets Point West Mall
project is an unconscionable alienation of public parkland and the City Council should strike it
down immediately and definitively. The Congress and its members are not happy to have
parkland as part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park used as a parking lot, but we have always
believed if the parking lot became unnecessary the land could quickly and easily be returned to
true public, recreational use. Please say NO to this outrageous land grab.
As many of you know, the Queens Civic Congress is an umbrella organization consisting of over
100 civic associations throughout the Borough. The Congress has been active with the Flushing
Meadows Corona Park Conservancy, the Fairness Coalition of Queens, Save Flushing Meadows
Corona Park and the New York City Parks Advocate over the past several months to help ensure
the Park remains available to the numerous communities in nearby Queens. The Congress has in
the past opposed commercial development in the Park and remains adamantly opposed to any
further encroachment on public spaces.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park is the largest park in Queens and ought to serve as the flagship
park in Queens, but instead it has become the dumping ground of last resort for placing projects
that no other area will accept. CitiField has used many acres of park land on a deal that benefits
only the Mets owners and their profits return very little direct financial benefit to the City, to
Queens or to the Park. The parking lots surrounding the stadium sit on parkland and any change
in use should be subject to alienation requirements.
But the introduction of a massive steel and concrete mall to these western parking lots would
permanently destroy a public park amenity the community should enjoy for recreation and fun.
Not only will the mall remove forever land that could be used by the thousands of nearby
residents, but a mall will destroy hundreds of nearby “mom-and-pop” businesses in surrounding
neighborhoods, introducing potentially devastating competition to existing, struggling malls,
such as the struggling Shops at Atlas Park, Rego Park Mall and even Queens Center Mall.
Furthermore, there is no pedestrian traffic nearby to support a mall. Residential development
plans for Willets Point remain unclear and far in the future.
If, as the City is proposing, the CitiField parking lots are excess and can be repurposed, the space
could better be used by the people for additional picnic and recreational space -- not for stores
and movie theaters that have highly questionable demand and little or no access.
Please preserve our open space at Flushing Meadows Corona Park - just say “No.”
Richard C. Hellenbrecht, President
Auburndale Improvement Association, Inc.
P.O. Box 580331, Station A
Flushing, NY 11358
September 3, 2013
New York City Council, Land Use Committee, Zoning Subcommittee
New York, NY 10007
To the Land Use Committee, Zoning Subcommittee of the City Council:
My name is Henry Euler and I am the First Vice President of the Auburndale Improvement Association, Inc. My testimony today is on behalf of my civic organization. We are the oldest and geographically the largest civic group in Queens County and our membership numbers close to six hundred families and individuals living in Auburndale Flushing and western Bayside.
We are very concerned about the three proposed projects to be constructed on parkland at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. These projects include expansion of the tennis center, the building of a soccer stadium and the construction of a huge mall. We oppose all three proposals.
Today you are considering the proposal dealing with the 1.4 million square foot mall to be constructed on the parking lot to the west of Citi Field. This land is parkland and should be off limits to any private development. Parkland is sacrosanct. It belongs to the people, not private developers. With the rate of intense development in Queens, we need all of the green space we can spare.
The asphalt on the unused part of the parking lot to the west of Citi Field should be removed and trees and other vegetation should be planted on the site in order to make it look more like a park once again. There is no shortage of people living in close proximity to the park, or even further away, who could use that refurbished parkland.
Have you seen how many people use Flushing Meadows Corona Park? It is staggering. How could anyone think of usurping land for private gain when people living in overcrowded neighborhoods look to the park as their backyard and a source of relaxation, exercise and tranquility? This park should be a New York City landmark, just as Central Park is in Manhattan and Prospect Park is in Brooklyn. Queens is tired of being ignored!
And what will happen to local businesses if this mall is completed? And what is the impact on traffic and quality of life in the surrounding community if the mall is built? Is this land, where the mall is to be built, stable enough to support the structures to be built on the site? This area was originally wetland.
There are so many questions to consider in this case, and so many concerns. We stand with the coalition known as Save Flushing Meadows Corona Park and our neighbors in western Flushing and Corona. No mall in this location! Just preserve the parkland and find additional funds to sustain and maintain our precious park. Thank you!
Henry Euler, First Vice President
Auburndale Improvement Association, Inc.
Senator Tony Avella was joined last Friday by preservationists and several area civic groups at a press conference protesting the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s (LPC) decision to reject landmark designation for Flushing Meadows Corona Park (FMCP).
The 1,255 acre Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is the Borough of Queens’ most prominent park and provides open space and recreational benefits to thousands of borough residents and low and middle income families. The Park is a valuable asset for the City and the residents of Queens not only because of its green space and natural areas, but also due to its embodiment of historical structures and leading cultural and educational institutions. The Park also has a unique history, serving as host to two World Fairs in 1939 and 1964, plus hosting the General Assembly of the United Nations from 1946 to 1950.
That is why, earlier this year, Avella asked LPC to review landmark status for Queens’ most prominent and historic park, which is under the threat of devastating development interests. Currently, the Mets organization is floating the idea of building a Mall in the park, the United States Tennis Association is proposing to expand and Major League Soccer is still interested in building a stadium that would further eliminate parkland.
Unfortunately, LPC recently denied this request and indicated that the park did not meet the criteria for designation.
Avella stated, “I am very disappointed in the Landmark Preservation Commission’s decision to not designate Flushing Meadows Corona Park as a landmark. It is clear to me that with its rich history and importance as Queens’ most significant and treasured park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park deserves landmark recognition, especially now. With three separate development proposals threatening to take away valuable parkland, Flushing Meadows Corona Park needs to be preserved now more than ever.”
“Parkland is sacred,” continued Avella. “The City should not be entertaining these proposals which would radically reduce open and recreational space for the hundreds of thousands of Queens residents who use this park on a yearly basis. Instead, the City should landmark this vital borough park to ensure its continued usage for generations to come and send a clear message that parkland is not for sale!”
“That is why I am calling on the Landmarks Preservation Commission to immediately reconsider their decision and demand that they hold a public hearing on this important issue. At the very least, the residents of Queens deserve to have their voices heard,” concluded Avella.
Paul Graziano, representing Save Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and a candidate for the 19th City Council District blasted the Landmarks Preservation Commission for the decades-long neglect of important historic structures in the park. "The first preservation battle that I ever got involved in was the Aquacade, which stood just to the south of the Long Island Expressway on Meadow Lake," stated Graziano, "and it was an incredibly important as it was one of the last remaining buildings from the 1939 World's Fair. The building suffered neglect in the 1980s and 1990s, and former Borough President Claire Shulman drew up a plan for its restoration - until she decided to hand a demolition contract to one of her financial supporters."
"We also almost lost the façade of the Queens Museum a decade ago, when the plan was to radically alter its façade. Thankfully, the financial crisis of the last few years ended that terrible plan - but it could have easily happened, and the place where the United Nations first met would have been unrecognizable to future generations."
"The New York State Pavilion also stands as a ruin, due to the neglect of New York City. This amazing structure by Phillip Johnson - one of the greatest architects of the 20th Century - stands as a testament to the lack of support that the remainder of the World's Fair fairgrounds and park plan has been jeopardized by the Landmarks Commission and city government for decades. It must end through the immediate landmarking of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and subsequent funding to restore and enhance our borough's 'Central' park."
My name is Geoffrey Croft, president and founder of NYC Park Advocates.
It is truly a sad day in "city planning" when we are talking about a plan that seizes more than 30 acres of public parkland to allow one of the country's largest developers to build the largest mall New York City.
Sounds inconceivable right? Just when you thought this administration couldn't get any lower, here we are today.
And lets not forget the Related Companies and Sterling's original plan for our park - building a massive casino and retail complex.
Let's be very clear: The 1961 statute that the city and the applicants are so desperately trying to rely on in order to justify being allowed to develop the public parkland for non-park purposes does not permit a shopping mall, much less a 1.4 million square foot mall.
Administrative Code 18-118 explicitly states
that any monies gained from a temporary lease on the property must go back into the property. Back Into The Property,
not line the pockets of Related or Sterling Equity.
To quote the law directly, the revenue must aid "in the financing of the construction and operation of such stadium, grounds, parking areas and facilities, and any additions, alterations or improvements thereto, or to the equipment thereof."
Clearly this is not the case unless the applicant is representing that this is being done to off-set unfortunate investments made by the Wilpons. Is that the plan?
Clearly the intention of the law was not to allow any project to make a permanent claim on the parkland or its facilities, because the revenue was supposed to fund the property.
The law simply does not authorize the Willets West project. It does not enable use of the parking lot or authorize retail stores - and certainly something that is primarily a shopping mall.
The bill does say "trade and commerce", but that obviously refers to conventions
, not stores. Obviously, a shopping mall was never intended as the bill language states.
The park land we are talking about here today for this irresponsible project was never alienated as required under state law nor are they planning to replace it if approved.
By law, PARKS ARE NOT allowed to be used for such non-park purposes. In fact State law - which our elected officials have taken an oath to uphold - prohibits such commercial development.
If ever there was a poster child for non-park purposes, building the city's largest mall would be it.
I would also like to point out one of the most disingenuous statements being made today - language included in your calendar states: "It would incorporate a development substantially similar to that anticipated and analyzed in the 2008 Willets Point Development Plan Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS), as well as a major entertainment/retail component and parking adjacent to CitiField."
Is that a joke - who wrote that - the Applicant? The 30 acres of public parkland was NEVER part of the original plan in anyway. In any way
and it certainly was never approved by the City Council.
There is also just no getting round the fact that this 1.4 square foot mall is a totally new project than what was approved by the City Council and City Planning.
And, as usual, no one is under any illusion that City Planning will do its job and reject such an irresponsible project. This is nothing but an end run around the law and City Planning will be complicit when you rubber stamp its approval.
This is public park land and it does NOT belong to Mayor Bloomberg or to Seth Pinsky, the Related Companies or the Wilpons - it belongs to the people of the City of New York. If the 30 plus acres of public park land they are attempting to seize for the project are no longer needed for parking ,then it should revert back to its original use. This is what our elected officials should be pushing for and what any legitimate city planning agency would insist on and not, instead, allowing our public spaces to be given away to politically connected developers.
The proposed giveaway of public park land is being done to sweeten the deal for Related so they have a guaranteed revenue stream "up front" in order to help them off-set their investments in building the rest of the Willets Point.
This is disgraceful. This plan is about greed, pure and simple. It is a nightmare for the residents of Queens in so many ways and for the City's taxpayers at large who are greatly subsidizing this project.
The corporate welfare must end.
NYC Park Advocates
(646) 584-8250 Cell #email@example.com NYC Park Advocates Inc. is a non-profit, non-partisan watchdog group dedicated to improving public parks, restoring public funding, increasing public recreation programs, expanding open space and accessibility, and achieving the equitable distribution of these vital services in New York City for all. We are the only non-profit park advocacy group dedicated to all City, State and Federal parkland in New York City. For more information please visit us at http://nycparkadvocates.org
After her public hearing, at which there were 20 speakers in opposition and just 2 in favor, and prior opposition from the overwhelming majority of the combined memberships of community boards 3 and 7, Borough President Helen Marshall has APPROVED the 1.4 million square foot Mets mall to be constructed on mapped parkland in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
The City Planning Commission public hearing is next Wednesday, July 10, on a calendar with other items. The entire session begins at 9:00AM, but according to the CPC calendar the Mets mall hearing "is not likely to begin before 11:30AM".
"MLS has been, along with the two other projects proposed for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a gigantic boondoggle that Mayor Bloomberg has pushed to become one of his legacies," stated Paul Graziano, a co-founder of Save Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a coalition of community-based civic and environmental groups opposed to the continued commercial encroachment of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
"As everyone in Queens - except for most of our elected officials - seems to know, the proposed site was a terrible location for any sort of stadium, as it would have horribly impacted the park as well as sat directly on top of the Flushing River, which the Fountain of the Planets currently is sited.
"As advocates specifically for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, we are hopeful that we are seeing the last of this awful proposal and that it will evaporate back into thin air where it came from. All told, this project, along with the USTA expansion and the proposed Willets Point West mall would have allowed over 50 acres of our parkland to be taken from us and handed to private corporations and /or billionaire friends of Mayor Bloomberg's for free, shortchanging the citizens of our city by stealing precious and irreplaceable parkland.
"As it stands, this situation potentially removes one of those threats from gobbling up over a dozen acres of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. However, we must remain vigilant to make sure that there will not be another proposal for this site - or any others - and stand strong against the two other proposed projects to make sure they never become a reality."