Residents march against MLS stadium plans

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Queens residents opposed to a potential soccer stadium.THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen
Queens residents opposed to a potential soccer stadium.

Less than a week after Major League Soccer (MLS) held meetings on consecutive days regarding its planned stadium for Queens, residents opposed to the project took to the streets to march against it.

“Parkland is sacred,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “And it shouldn’t be taken away for a money-making proposition.”

Avella, also a candidate for borough president, and Councilmember Julissa Ferreras headlined the protest march on Sunday, December 9.

Two other massive projects — expansion at Willets Point and at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center — begin at the same time a new soccer stadium would be built. Avella said that would create gridlock and make access for parkgoers nearly impossible.

“You not only have the discussion about a soccer stadium,” Avella said. “You also have the tennis stadium, the tennis association that wants to expand, and you have Willets Point — all of these projects supposedly are going to be done at the same time.”

Ferreras said the project could not move forward without bringing the community into play. The future of Flushing Meadows needed to reflect the community, she said, and what it needs regarding greenspace.

“We cannot make any deals behind closed doors,” Ferreras said. “We cannot have such an important part of our community — the lungs of our community — be negotiated in City Hall. This is important for our community; I cannot be supportive of a project that says it’s at the finish line, when we are only at the beginning.”

Luis Gonzalez, a member of advocacy group Make the Road New York, said that while the residents around the park love to use its amenities to play soccer, that does not mean the community, as a whole, wants to have a stadium in the middle of open space.

“I play soccer in the park,” he said. “Our community loves soccer. But that doesn’t mean we want a soccer stadium right in the middle of the park. The kids in our community desperately need open space to exercise.”