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Queens Civic Congress Testimony Concerning Proposed Willets Point West Mall at Flushing Meadows Corona Park June

6, 2013 The Queens Civic Congress is an umbrella organization consisting of over 100 civic associations throughout Queens. The Congress has been active with the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Conservancy, the Fairness Coalition of Queens, and Save Flushing Meadows Corona Park over the past several months. The Congress has in the past and remains adamantly opposed to any further commercial development in the Park. The Queens Civic Congress Platform, entitled Civic 2030, adopted and endorsed by the full Congress in 2008 and ratified by resolution in December 2012, includes the following statements: 15. Support the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Conservancy. 16. Protect Flushing Meadows Corona Park from any further commercial and corporate exploitation. 17. Impose a moratorium on all new construction/development of non-public-benefit projects in Flushing Meadows Corona Park pending completion of a Master Plan by a Commission that has public members. Flushing Meadows Corona Park is the largest park in Queens and ought to serve as the flagship park in Queens, but instead has become the dumping ground of last resort for placing any project that no other area will accept. While we gladly accept the long standing cultural facilities such as the Queens Museum and Theater and Hall of Science and Zoo, the more recent move of the US Tennis Center and US Tennis Open to the park and its recent expansion has been a serious encroachment on precious parkland that could and should be enjoyed by residents of Queens. CitiField has taken additional acres of public land on a deal that benefits only the Mets owners with very little direct financial benefit to the City and no benefit to Queens or to the Park. The parking lots surrounding the stadium sit on parkland and any change in use should be subject to alienation requirements. As parking lots they could be easily removed and returned to public use. But the introduction of a massive steel and concrete, brick and mortar mall to these western parking lots would permanently destroy what the community should enjoy as a public park amenity. In addition to removing forever land that could be used by the thousands of nearby residents, the mall would destroy hundreds of nearby “mom-and-pop” businesses, small boutiques and restaurants in surrounding neighborhoods and would introduce significant and possibly devastating competition to existing, struggling malls, such as the beautiful Atlas Park Mall in Glendale and even Queens Center Mall. Queens Civic Congress and fellow organizations believe that FMCP has been intentionally neglected by the City by providing inadequate maintenance budgets and minimal capital improvements over decades, resulting in a untidy and disorganized park. None-the-less, the Park serves as the backyard to tens of thousands of working class and middle income workers from nearby neighborhoods. The lack of upkeep seems to justify to the city its ability to propose commercial and corporate projects such as a Major League Soccer Stadium, the tennis center and this mall. Despite the terrible condition of the Park, on this Memorial Day there was not a square inch of space available to put down a blanket or park a car.

People with barbeques and badminton, boom boxes and soccer were everywhere enjoying the outdoors space that is not available on their blocks. If, as the City is proposing, the CitiField parking lots could be repurposed, the space could better be used by the people for additional picnic and recreation space, not for stores and movie theaters that have questionable demand and little or no access. There is no pedestrian traffic nearby to support a mall and residential development plans for Willets Point remain unclear and far in the future. Queens Civic Congress urges the Borough President to oppose this project unequivocally. Willets Point West is an unjustified, unnecessary and inexcusable abuse of the City’s land use powers. We believe that the project is also in violation of parkland alienation regulations and should be reviewed by the State. The justification to avoid these regulations seems to be that a lease agreement provides to a private entity unrestricted use of the land, but we contest that a lease could supersede contradictory parkland alienation legislation. Borough President Marshall, please continue to make your permanent and lasting mark on Queens by preserving open space at Flushing Meadows Corona Park and just say “No.” Richard C. Hellenbrecht, President president@qccnyc.org 347-722-1872

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