If small businesses are supporting Major Soccer League’s attempt to construct a stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, they must have gotten intoxicated on the snake oil MLS has been pouring on the public (“MLS promotes small biz support,” Jan. 24, multiple editions).
People who watch games go home afterwards. They do not stop at small retail shops on Northern Boulevard to buy a pair of socks.
For years, multimillionaire private for-profit sports club owners have been blindsiding taxpayers in New York City and elsewhere, aided and abetted by inept politicians, claiming their businesses make important contributions to the municipality’s economy. There is no fiscal justification for the claim. Instead there is often a raid on the public treasury, along with enormous subsidies and perks.
Sports activities in New York City do not account for more than seven-tenths of 1 percent of the city’s gross economy, an amount of money that could be equated with the tip one gives the youngster who delivers your groceries. It does not put more police or firefighters on the streets or build more classrooms or affordable housing.
In his article “Play Ball or Else,” in the August 2005 Readers’ Digest, Michael Crowley notes that economist Allen Sanderson of The University of Chicago said, “Instead of attracting new money, stadium events just move money around that was already headed for the city coffers.”
If money is to be made from a stadium, it will go into the pockets of the ballclub owner and not the taxpayers, who in the case of MLS would lose parkland and add to the further desecration of the park.
Landscape architect Charles Birnbaum, the coordinator of the National Park Service Historic Landscape Initiative, wrote in Preservation magazine that open space in America’s parks is being wiped out by new structures and parking lots, as municipal officials tend to see such space as a void that must be filled.
But, he said, park users themselves aren’t demanding change. Two decades of surveys say that between 70 and 80 percent of American park users visit them specifically for passive reflective experiences, not for entertainment.
Birnbaum asks, “When was it decided that strolling in dappled shade under a canopy of trees or roaming a sloping lawn is not sufficient experience in its own right? When did we stop valuing the sound of running water, the humanizing scale and tactile marvels of nature? Who still appreciates historic moss-covered walls and paths or a landscape designer’s choice of plants and ornaments?”
His comments should be mandatory reading for all persons seeking public office — particularly people like state Sen. Jose Peralta, who does not view parkland as parkland, but as open space to be sold to the highest bidder, the public be damned. This belief is so obnoxious that in my opinion it makes him unworthy of holding public office.
Benjamin M. Haber