Tag Archives: Major League Soccer

‘Green’ at the center of debate on Willets project


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

Willets Point might be making headway to become a destination for shopping and entertainment in the borough, but many either living or working near there are pointing out that the project could have negative effects on the surrounding area.

The Jackson Heights Green Alliance (JHGA) held an emergency meeting on Monday, October 1 to speak out against the parkland that would be lost be several projects planned around and within Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. This includes the development of Willets Point and the parking lot to the left of Citi Field, Willets West; renovation and expansion of the U.S. Tennis Center; and talks of a possible Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium where what is currently Industry Pond sits.

Donovan Finn, a professor of urban planning at Stony Brook University and JHGA board member, said the actual green space in the park was already significantly less than what is actually billed for the borough’s largest park. Factoring in facility buildings, water, walkways and other items, there are only 333 acres of actual green space, Finn said.

“I think it’s reasonable that when all is said and done in 20 years, in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which the Parks Department claims is 1,200-and-some acres, usable green space [will be] 250 acres,” Finn said. “No one would be proposing these projects in Prospect Park and Central Park. They never have and they never will.”

Talks about a possible soccer stadium at Flushing Meadows were met with disapproval from residents in attendance. Finn said a stadium, which if constructed would hold around 25,000 spectators, would be the wrong solution to clean up the area around, and including, Industry Pond.

“I would argue it’s a heavily utilized part of the park,” he said. “They’re not taking over the whole park, I admit that, but this is not the kind of use that we need.”

Many of these concerns, among others, were brought before the city at a September 27 court-mandated scoping hearing for the Willets Point project. Residents, advocates and workers voiced concerns over traffic effects, the legalities of the project and the displacement of thousands of jobs, blaming these problems on several agencies.

The hearing was designed to create a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement(SEIS) to study a number of factors that might have changed since the General Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) that was filed in 2008, because parameters of the project have changed. The study will look at items ranging from potential transit issues, effects to businesses within half a mile and possible hazardous materials, according to officials.

Because the Citi Field parking lot — most of which will become Willets West — is technically parkland, some civic representatives alleged the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) had bypassed rules for parkland alienation.

Cristyne Nicholas, a spokesperson for the Joint Venture at Willets Point, noted that the development to the north of the park was separate from any expansion at the Tennis Center, or talks for a stadium within the park. And while the parking lot is technically parkland, Nicholas said the end result would great more green space within Willets, with the construction of recreational and open space areas.

“The Willets Point redevelopment will first and foremost clean 23 acres of contaminated land,” she said. “The Willets Point project will not in any way reduce the availability of open space within Flushing Meadows Corona Park. In fact, the project will increase open space for the community by building off-season recreational uses and five acres of additional open space on the Willets Point land.”

Christina Wilkinson, representing Communities of Maspeth and Elmurst Together, said there were several state parks polices needed to be addressed before Willets West could carry on.

“The developers of this project are not entitled to circumvent the parkland alienation process and the involvement of the State Parks Department in this matter,” she said. “The city never originally proposed that parkland would be involved in the Willets Point development, and the developers doing so at this late date does not provide any excuse to avoid the alienation process.”

Benjamin Branham, the NYCEDC’s vice president for external affairs, said the hearing would help guide the project moving forward and fully understand what needs to be done to get the Willets project off the ground.

“[The] public hearing for the proposed Willets Point redevelopment plan marked an important first step in the approvals process for this transformative project that will clean up dozens of acres of toxic land and create thousands of jobs for Queens residents,” he said. “We are grateful for the significant turnout, strong enthusiasm and extensive engagement from the community on this critical project, and we look forward to continuing the dialogue we move forward.”

Op Ed: Soccer stadium would be a major league score


| editorial@queenscourier.com

moya headshot

BY ASSEMBLYMEMBER FRANCISCO MOYA

With Major League Soccer (MLS) looking to expand in New York City and a growing population addicted to the world’s game, the time has come for a dedicated soccer stadium within the city. And there is no better place for it than in the park where my father taught me to play soccer as a young boy: Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Currently, the closest MLS team is in New Jersey. For the last few years, MLS leadership has shown an interest in an expansion team within New York.

But the big question remains: Where will this future team play? In recent weeks, MLS has made clear its interest in building a soccer specific stadium, built with private dollars, in Queens.

A soccer-only facility in Queens is the perfect location for many reasons. Most important of all, the fans are here. As the son of immigrants from Ecuador and a lifelong soccer fan, I know first-hand how passionate Queens residents are about soccer. In cities with successful professional soccer franchises, new immigrant communities form the backbone of the fan base, including D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy. The same would surely happen in Queens. Finally, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is a prime location—within easy reach of the entire city by public transportation and Long Island and home to the busiest international airport in North America.

A dedicated soccer stadium would also benefit the people of Queens, both financially and culturally.

For starters, building a world-class soccer arena in Queens would bring between 2,000 and 2,200 good-paying construction jobs, with tens of millions infused into the local economy. Going forward, Major League Soccer matches, international exhibition games and other events would bring needed dollars and 300 full time and 900 part time permanent jobs to the borough. MLS reported that a similar soccer-only stadium in Kansas City will have a $500 million annual economic impact.

Soccer would also have indirect and profound benefits for the people of Queens. Consider the increased emphasis on healthy alternatives for children and the improved focus on after school recreational opportunities. And a pro team would bring world-class soccer players right to our neighborhoods, giving the next generation of children a sense of hope and instill the confidence needed for our kids to be successful.

As the momentum behind Major League Soccer in New York City continues to grow, it is time to act. The people of Queens are ready, willing and able to support a team. It begins with a dedicated soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

 

City, MLS in talks to bring soccer to Queens


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Elected officials and soccer fans alike are hoping that they city does not pass on a soccer stadium in Queens.

The city has been in talks with Major League Soccer (MLS) to build a stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and bring what would be the league’s 20th team to Queens, a state official said. Currently, MLS runs a 19-team league across North America; 16 teams in the U.S. and three in Canada. The stadium would hold somewhere between 20,000 to 25,000 fans.

Assemblymember Francisco Moya has been advocating for the stadium. A dedicated soccer fan since childhood, Moya said a stadium in the borough’s largest park would be an economic and cultural boon to the area.

Citing accessibility to mass transit and the soccer culture in the surrounding neighborhoods, Moya said the stadium would be an economic boost for the borough, as well as an affordable venue for soccer fans — the cheapest ticket for a game, he said, would only be about $20.

The stadium would be privately financed and not affect taxpayers, Moya said. It would be built over the defunct pools in the park, he said, with MLS revamping the park’s soccer fields if the project goes through.

An MLS spokesperson said there were not any contingent plans for a soccer stadium and gave the following statement:

“Major League Soccer remains committed to securing a 20th team for the league that would be located in New York City. We are thrilled about the prospect of being in Queens and bringing the world’s sport to the world’s park,” the spokesperson said in an email. “We are in exploratory discussions with the city and with Queens officials and look forward to working with the community to build a world class soccer facility for all to enjoy.”

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents some of the neighborhoods around the park, said she’s met with MLS and looks forward to working with the league. At the same time, she said it was important potential projects also take civic needs into consideration.

“I have a series of meetings scheduled with Major League Soccer. I am excited about this opportunity,” she said. “However, it is important to ensure that any plan is fair and considers the needs and concerns of the community.”

The Wall Street Journal — when it first broke the news that plans for a stadium were in talks — noted the arena could become a competitor to Citi Field just across the park.

The ballpark hosted a soccer match between Ecuador and Greece last year; Moya, who is of Ecuadorian descent, was made an honorary captain for the South American country’s team.

And though he said he would fully support a Queens team, he said his allegiance would always remain with his beloved Barcelona, a Spanish team with a worldwide following.

Development up throughout Queens


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

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Temperatures are not the only thing that’s been skyrocketing this summer.

Development in Queens has been booming in the borough, with announcements of major projects, the near-completion of others, and talks of even more to come.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on June 14 the long-awaited, finalized plans for a Willets Point facelift that is expected to bring more than 12,000 union construction jobs and 7,000 permanent jobs.

The project includes a 200-room hotel and 30,000-square-feet of retail space on what is now the Iron Triangle, a 20-acre convertible recreational area, and a 200-store shopping area on what is currently the west parking lot of Citi Field.

Roughly $3 billion in private investment will go into this project, as well as $100 million in city capital that will go toward demolition and permanent improvements. In turn, the overhaul of the area is expected to bring an estimated $4.2 billion in economic activity over the next 30 years.

It was announced the same day that the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, home to the U.S. Open, will undergo its own expansions and renovations.

The Louis Armstrong Stadium, which currently holds about 10,000 fans, will be replaced — in the same spot — with an updated stadium that will hold 15,000 fans and include administrative and broadcast spaces.

The Grandstand Stadium will be built in the southwest corner of the center, holding some 8,000 spectators.

The renovations, which are expected to begin in the fall of 2013, are expected to bring an extra 10,000 tennis fans to the center per day during the U.S. Open.

Following the announcements for the Tennis Center, Borough President Helen Marshall said this was a step forward for both Queens and the Tennis Center, which employs 6,000 with seasonal jobs, according to the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA).

Marshall said that this would further the already robust revenue the National Championship brings to Queens.

“For generations the borough of Queens has played host to the U.S. Open, a world class sporting event and a major economic catalyst for our city,” she said. “I look forward to working with the USTA to ensure that the new additions to the National Tennis Center bring the maximum benefit to the people of the borough of Queens.”

Sixty acres of downtown Flushing waterfront would also be revitalized as part of the state’s Department of State Brownfield Opportunity Areas program.

The proram consists of mixed use projects over the next 10 years, including recreational, commercial, entertainment and residential portions.

And sailing west, another waterfront in Queens might get a revamp of its own.

The Hallets Point project could break ground as early as the fall of 2013, the Daily News reported. The process would reshape seven acres of Astoria waterfront and see around 2,200 housing units throughout seven towers, along with a supermarket and a park along the East River.

Lincoln Equities Group, the developer of the project, has agreed to set aside 20 percent of the units for affordable housing aimed at seniors, a project official told the Daily News. The site will be located close to the Astoria Houses, a public housing complex.

The Briarwood Organization is currently adding to its plaza on Bell Boulevard that will be home to business and medical offices. The site, located at 36-29 Bell Boulevard, is the most recent of several structures the century-old development company has built on Bell Boulevard. The building is expected to open September 2013, Briarwood partners said.

To the south, a new center that looks to spark development, creativity and understanding is in its last stages of completion.

A new center for New York Families of Austic Children is expected to open this September, said NYFAC CEO Andrew Baumann. The center will be home to programs ranging from drama to expression for children and adults with autism, Baumann said, along with support groups and educational programs for parents and family members.

The new center will be at 164-14 Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach.

And as ground is being broken or the final cornerstone is laid, plans for even further development in the borough are still in the works.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation has opened four Requests For Proposals (RFPs) throughout the city — one of which is located in College Point.

The 40,000-square-foot rectangular lot is in the northeast portion of the area’s Corporate Park, which currently houses more than 200 corporations employing approximately 6,000 employees.

And in recent weeks there have been talks of bringing a new Major League Soccer (MLS) Stadium — and new team — to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The stadium, it has been reported, would sit some 20,000 to 25,000 soccer fans in one of the borough’s largest parks. Assemblymember Francisco Moya said the project would have multiple benefits for the borough, both economically and culturally.

The potential project — still in its earliest stages, according to the assemblymember — would be privately financed, not affecting taxpayers. As part of any deal, Moya said, the developer would renovate the several soccer fields in the park now.

Moya also noted the large soccer culture not just in Queens, but in the park. The devout FC Barcelona fan said he learned the game in Flushing Meadows as a child and has played there since.

“That’s where my dad took me to play,” he said. “That’s where I played my whole life.”