Call For Jets To Return To Queens
Officials of the New York Jets football team met with Borough President Helen Marshall and other elected officials last week to consider plans to bring the Jets back to Queens. The Jets’ last game in Queens was in December 1983, when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 34 to 7. For the next 20 years, the Jets have played their home games in New Jersey.
Team representatives are now also negotiating with New Jersey officials to build a stadium in the Meadowlands with the other New York football team, the New York Giants. The Jets' lease with the Meadowlands, where their present stadium is located, expires in 2008.
Efforts to get the Jets back to Queens began to take shape after Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s quest to hold the 2012 Olympics in New York City fell through in July and the International Olympics Committee (IOC) awarded the games to London. Part of the package meant to entice the IOC into holding the games in New York City had been the prospect of a new stadium to be built over railroad yards on the West Side of Manhattan that the Jets would use after the games were concluded. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver stymied the plans for the West Side stadium and last-minute efforts to substitute a stadium in Queens did not materialize.
Queens elected officials and many residents of the borough still entertained hopes of the Jets’ return. Last week at a press conference at Borough Hall Marshall said she had met with New York Jets President Jay Cross and elected officials from the borough about options that the team is considering for building a new stadium in Queens.
The plans involve building the stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park at the eight-acre site of the Fountain of the Planets, which was created for the 1964-65 World’s Fair. In recent years the fountain has fallen into disuse and its basin, a rectangular pool, has been filled with stagnant water, litter and on occasion dead fish and birds. Marshall pointed out that rehabilitating the fountain site would cost more money than the borough can afford to spend on the project. Private funds would be used to renovate a total of about 15 acres of city-owned parkland around the Fountain of the Planets for a proposed 80,000-seat stadium. Jets officials said last Friday that four soccer fields to be displaced would be replaced and the area just south of the Fountain would be renovated.
At a press event in Arverne last Thursday, August 25, Bloomberg pointed out that state law requires that parkland taken for private purposes, such as a football stadium, must be replaced, not necessarily in the same location. However he quickly addressed the decrepit state of the fountain when Marshall noted the stagnant water and garbage in the pool, promising a work crew would clean out the pool that same afternoon. A crew from the city Department of Parks and Recreation did, in fact, clear the debris and garbage from the pool shortly thereafter.
Several area residents who use the park stated their opposition to the plan, saying the fountain site was the only convenient place for them to hold their soccer games and family gatherings. However, the prospect of cleaning up the site appealed to state Senator Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing). “On my way to the Borough Hall meeting, I visited the proposed site in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park,” she said. “I found seven acres of stagnant water surrounding an inoperative fountain. I saw only a few people in this section of the park. I believe that the creation of 2,000 permanent jobs, coupled with $250 million in annual revenues will add to the renaissance that is occurring in Flushing.”
Stavisky had originally opposed the proposed stadium, but changed her mind after her walk through the park. She agreed with Bloomberg, however, that parkland taken for the stadium must be replaced. “Any loss of parkland must be replaced with parkland nearby, and this must be part of any agreement,” she said.
“As much as we may love the Jets, the people of Queens are not going to give the store away,” City Councilmember John Liu, also a Democrat who represents a Flushing council district, concurred. “The plan must not just be about a place for the Jets to play. It must include park enhancements, public recreational amenities and investments in transit infrastructure. It’s not just about the Jets. It’s about the people of Queens.”
Mayoral candidate Thomas Ognibene, a former councilmember, joined in calls for the Jets to come back to their first home in Queens. “The Jets are originally from Queens,” he said. “They belong in Queens, and a Queens-based stadium has always been preferable to Mayor Mike’s harebrained West Side stadium scheme. I’ve been a proponent of bringing the Jets back to New York for years, and it’s about time that the Jets’ senior management figured it out. All that’s left is to figure out how to get the Giants here, too.”
Stavisky agreed. “It is unfortunate that the only New York football team is in Buffalo,” she said. ”It is time for the Jets to come home to Queens.”