De Blasio Unveils Plan To Save Flushing Meadows
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio unveiled on July 13 a three-point plan to save and sustain Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, rejecting the Bloomberg Administration’s proposal to give away 13 acres of its prime parkland to build a soccer stadium.
De Blasio also called for renegotiating contracts with current private occupants of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park—the US Tennis Association and Citi Field—to ensure that city residents and taxpayers get the best possible deal for private use of this treasured public space. The plan would also create a public-private conservancy model for the Queens park, as well as establish a citywide Neighborhood Parks Alliance to guarantee parks across the city receive fair and adequate investments.
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is the jewel of Queens’ park system—897 acres of public recreational space, including sporting fields, a swimming pool, a zoo, an art museum, a botanical garden, and striking historic artifacts of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. The park is adjacent to some of Queens’ most vibrant and fastest-growing immigrant neighborhoods, and it is enjoyed by millions of visitors each year. But it is consistently underfinanced and understaffed, with barely 20 full-time workers and 17 seasonal staff to manage its 897 acres. By comparison, Chelsea’s 6.7-acre High Line has roughly 70 on staff. Central Park’s 843 acres have nearly 300 workers.
“The era of giving away prime land to commercial interests at bargain basement prices must come to an end. For every well-maintained park in the city, there are so many more that are falling prey to neglect and encroachment, especially in the outer boroughs. We need a renewed commitment to restore and maintain world-class parks in every community, starting with Flushing Meadows-Corona Park,” said de Blasio. “Whatever deal is ultimately negotiated for Major League Soccer must not come at the expense of public parkland or city taxpayers. And for those interests that are benefiting from park space currently, we must be sure those deals are fair for New Yorkers.”
De Blasio’s plan calls for:
1. Rejecting the bad soccer stadium deal for city taxpayers and Queens residents. De Blasio warned the initial 13-acre land swap and lack of financial support initially proposed by Mayor Bloomberg to bring Major League Soccer to Queens must be rejected. De Blasio called on the city to work with MLS to find an alternate site for the stadium that would not result in a loss of contiguous parkland.
2. Striking a better deal for city taxpayers from USTA and Citi Field. A series of land deals has given away parkland to corporate entities, while receiving little back to support the park or city taxpayers. De Blasio called for the USTA to annually pay four percent of its revenue toward supporting Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and for the New York Mets to increase annual payments to the city, from $400,000 in 2014 to $9 million annually—the rate paid to the city prior to constructing Citi Field.
3. Establishing a Flushing MeadowsCorona Park conservancy and a Neighborhood Parks Alliance. De Blasio called for swift enactment of Councilmember Julissa Ferreras’ proposal for a public-private alliance, similar to the Central Park Conservancy, in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to fund maintenance and park upgrades from donations, concession fees, and the increased contributions from USTA and Citi Field. He also urged the creation of a Neighborhood Parks Alliance, as proposed by state Senator Dan Squadron, to encourage 20 percent of all donations to each large park conservancy be shared with a new citywide fund for currently underfunded neighborhood parks across New York City.
Read the full plan at www.advocate.nyc.gov/parks