2005-08-31 / Political Page

Marshall Tackles Tough Issue Trying To Get Jets Stadium In Flushing Meadows

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall didn’t choose a pushover issue when she launched an attempt to bring the Jets football team back home to her borough in a new stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The major hurdle for the borough president and the Jets is to get approval to use parkland as the site for the stadium although at one time this was considered to be a near impossible feat because parklands were considered sacrosanct. The hands-off tradition has been weakened in recent years to the point where Marshall and her supporters would seem to have a 50-50 chance to get the needed approval from the state legislature.

The precedent favoring the Jets’ plan to build their 80,000 -seat stadium where the Fountain of the Planets still stands since being built for the 1964 World’s Fair lies just a short walk to the west within the huge park to where the world renowned U.S. Tennis Stadium stands.

The tennis mecca, which includes the Arthur Ashe Stadium, was the last battleground over taking parklands in Queens and then Mayor David Dinkens and Borough President Claire Shulman overcame sharp opposition, to prevail in securing the property as the site for the tennis center.

In the present instance, the Jets’ proposal to take the six-acre fountain site would appear to have more support than opposition. Besides Marshall, several Queens lawmakers are backing the plan, including Congressmember Gregory Meeks, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, and Assemblymembers Michael Gianaris and Jose Peralta.

Gianaris (D–Astoria), who had backed the Manhattan stadium proposal, declared that the Queens stadium site is an excellent idea as long as the Jets replace the parkland, which they have already pledged to do.

Stavisky (D–Flushing) also raised the replacement issue in stating her support for the Jets’ plan. Stavisky also pointed out that the Planets site is seven acres of stagnant water surrounding an inoperative fountain in an area of the sprawling park which isn’t much used.

Marshall herself described the rundown fountain as “just a big pool of stagnant water with garbage thrown in.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has not taken a position on the Jets’ proposal, took exception to Marshall’s description of conditions in the park, and said he would have it attended to.

David Oats, a strong advocate for improving Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, has come out strongly against giving up any part of the park for a sports stadium. Bernard Haber, president of the Civic Association of Kew Gardens Hills, has also declared opposition to the proposal.

But Marshall has cited the economic benefits that would flow from a new football stadium in Queens, and the Jets seem to be sincere in their effort to return to the borough where they previously played in Shea Stadium. They have promised to replace the parkland they would take, and one team official said last week they would also make efforts to bring a professional soccer team to the new facility, acknowledging the high interest in Queens for the sport.

Although Bloomberg has indicated support for the New York Yankees’ proposal to build their new stadium city parkland near their present stadium in The Bronx, he has not rushed in to support the Jets’ plan in Queens, perhaps because it emerged during the present election campaign.

But Marshall, who is also up for re-election and will have an opponent in the November balloting, although she escaped a primary, is going all out on this controversial issue in her effort to bring the Jets back home to Queens.

OGNIBENE LOSES BALLOT APPEAL: Former Middle Village City Councilmember Tom Ognibene last week lost his appeal to be reinstated on the Republican mayoral ballot in the September 13 primary, where he had hoped to challenge Bloomberg for the GOP nomination.

The ruling came from federal court Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who formerly was on Claire Shulman’s staff at Borough Hall. Ognibene had failed to qualify for the ballot and was ruled off by the Board of Elections. His appeal was based on a violation of his civic rights, but Garaufis said there was precedent to uphold the election board’s action.

Ognibene still remains on the ballot as the Conservative Party nominee for mayor.

MONSERRATE LASHES MAYOR: After Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed City Councilmember Hiram Monserrate’s bill ending metered parking on Sundays, the Corona lawmaker lashed out at the “billionaire mayor” for being out of touch with city residents.

“This is an important measure of relief to the average New Yorker,” Monserrate (D) said. The bill would save people who park at meters on Sunday $7 million in parking fees and $5 million in fines and would save them the trouble of having to leave Sunday religious services to feed the meter.

Council Speaker Gifford Miller said later the council would override the mayor’s veto. “We can afford this small luxury for our citizens,” Miller stated. Fernando Ferrer, like Miller a candidate against the mayor, also criticized the veto, saying people should not be forced “to pay to pray,” referring to the many church goers affected by metered parking on Sundays.

ONORATO FUNDRAISER: State Senator George Onorato (D–Astoria) isn’t up for re-election until next year, but he will hold a fundraiser on Wednesday, September 21 at Riccardo’s, 24-01 24th St. in Astoria, to help build a war chest for his effort to win a new term.

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