Landmark the park.
That’s what State Senator Tony Avella wants for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to block development in the area.
These include an entertainment center at Willets Point — an area that is technically parkland — along with expansions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and a proposed Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium.
The projects are either inside or on the edge of the park, but only the proposed soccer arena would require replacement parkland to be installed somewhere relatively close to Flushing Meadows. Normal park users, however, will not get the same access to this new park, Avella said, and Flushing Meadows would become overcrowded.
“Normally when you have some alienation, [and] you have some land coming in, you have to replace parkland of equal acreage some place everyone can agree upon. You may actually replace the amount of acreage, but the number of people who use it would be significantly less.”
Landmarking includes a review of the park for its historical and cultural value. The independent commission will look at these and decide whether or not it goes to a full vote.
“We put together what I think are very significant reasons why it should be done,” said Avella. “The historic aspect of the park in terms of two Worlds Fairs, housing the United Nations for a period of time and the fact that it is the borough park.
All three projects require a vote from the City Council, and then approval from the state because green space will be lost. Avella said should the bill go to the state level — in order to approve any removed parkland — he would push his colleagues in the chamber to vote down the expansions.
Risa Heller, spokesperson for MLS, said the league wanted to help refurbish the park and have a long working relationship with the parks department.
“MLS is deeply committed the long term health and vibrancy of FMCP which is why we will make a significant investment in the park in addition to replacing community fields,” she said. “We plan to be a long term partner for the park and plan to do everything we can to ensure it meets the needs of the surrounding communities.”
Spokespersons for USTA and the Willets project were reached for comment, but were not able to respond by press time.