Colby Hamilton, Writer, WNYC News
Colby Hamilton is a general assignment reporter. He originally joined WNYC as a political blogger. He's a proud graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
In mid-August, news reports brought a lot of attention to Major League Soccer’s plan to build a new stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. Since then little, if any, details of the $300 million proposal have come out.
Last week a group organized by the community non-profit Make the Road by Walking held a meeting to discuss concerns among some residents that the stadium, and a number of other proposals nearby, was proceeding without the community’s input.
Theo Oshiro, Make the Road’s deputy director, says the Major League Soccer stadium is yet another major development proposal faced by residents. The city still plans to completely redevelop Willets Point, just north of Corona Park, and the US Tennis Association also plans to expand its nearby facilities.
“We have been increasingly concerned because there does seem to be more recently some more momentum on all of the projects, and community members started to get very concerned about the traction that a lot of these projects are getting and the seeming inevitability of them happening right in the park,” Oshiro said. “Now is when people are really starting to get concerned, and wanting to have a voice in the process.”
But, quietly, sources say Major League Soccer has been meeting with stakeholders at every level to avoid the public fights that have often surrounded stadium developments in the past. Those meetings are reportedly at the stage where Major League Soccer is close to finalizing a community benefit agreement.
Assemblyman Francisco Moya has been a big proponent of the proposal from the start. He sees it as a win-win scenario for the community.
“You’re talking about a community that loves this sport. You’re talking about the affordability that’s going to give them access to this: The cheapest ticket to a Major League Soccer game is $20,” Moya said.
He contends the main focus should be on economic benefits. “When unemployment is above eight percent in this borough, when there is a project that is going to bring the econ stimulus that this community desperately needs,” he said, “this is the opportunity for us to be on the right side of the right project that is coming into our area.”
One big piece of the puzzle still need to be settled: where Major League Soccer will build a replacement park space to make up for the loss of land that will go to a stadium built in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
The concerns over the use of public space for a private development were voiced at the community meeting organized by Make the Road.
Requests for details and status of the plan from Major League Soccer were not provided as of this writing.
Major League Soccer’s negotiation with Mayor Bloomberg’s office, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, local elected officials and select community leaders have thus far received universal praise. Proponents of the project are hoping they will also be fruitful, resulting in some concrete plans for the community.