2005-03-09 / Front Page

Queens Is Ready For Stadium, Says Marshall

by john toscano

Willets Point auto junkyard.  Photo George TsourovakasWillets Point auto junkyard. Photo George Tsourovakas Seizing upon Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s change in attitude toward the idea of a new football stadium in Flushing, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall says she and the borough are ready for it.

“If the mayor now sees his way clear to Queens as an alternative site, Queens is ready,” Marshall said.

Marshall said that whether or not New York City plays host to the Summer Olympics in 2012, the New York Mets need a new stadium, the Olympics could use the facility and the football team, which once played in Queens, would benefit by it.

Congressmember Anthony Weiner, another elected official who has strongly advocated building the football stadium on Flushing’s Willets Point junkyards, said the mayor’s change of heart might be a little too late, but still could save the Olympics.

The mayor raised the possibility of using Queens as an alternative stadium site when he declared last Tuesday, “We will consider it” in response to a question at a businessmen’s breakfast.

Until that moment, the mayor had dismissed the borough from any consideration as a stadium site. For the past several years, his choice for the stadium has been on the west side of Manhattan over now defunct rail yards.

However, opposition to a Manhattan stadium has intensified in recent weeks. City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, a possible opponent to the mayor this year, last week introduced a bill requiring a public hearing before the mayor can commit any funds to the proposed project.

The mayor has said he would kick in $300 million, the state an equal amount and the New York Jets a final $8 million to get the facility built.

Along with the threat of Miller blocking the expenditure of city funds, there was a report from France that an International Olympic Committee (IOC) poll showed that of the cities under consideration for the 2012 Olympics, New York had the least support for the games from its citizens.

This appeared to weaken the chances of New York City being chosen by the IOC for the Olympics. With the city’s chances appearing to be withering because of the controversy over the Manhattan site, some sources attributed the mayor’s change of heart regarding Queens as a possible way to revive the city’s Olympics chances.

In her statement, Marshall described the 40-year-old Shea Stadium, present home of the Mets baseball team, as “a relic from the days when the Beatles had just invaded America and Lyndon Johnson signed the 1964 landmark Civil Rights Act.”

She added, “If the West Side doesn’t want it, Queens would embrace a new stadium.”

Marshall declared, “We have the need, we have the room and we have a site that is already accessible to public transportation, a network of highways and even an airport (nearby La Guardia Airport).”

In addition, the process of getting rid of the Willets Point auto junkyards is already underway since a Request for Proposals to acquire and redevelop the 110 acre site has been issued. Selection of the Willets Point site would also help in the further development of Downtown Flushing, Marshall added.

In his response to the mayor’s statement on Queens as an alternate site Weiner noted he jumped on the Willets Point bandwagon last April. “If the mayor had listened then, we’d be in a position to win the Olympics now.”

City Councilmember David Weprin (D–Hollis), council Finance Committee chair, has also been a strong advocate for a Queens stadium. There is also an ad hoc organization favoring Queens as a stadium site. It is led by Queens civic activist David Oats, who feels redevelopment of the Willets Point site would also help to improve Flushing Meadows–Corona Park because the junkyards are located on the edge of the huge and famous park which was home to two World’s Fairs.

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