Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has outlined a three-point plan to protect and preserve Flushing Meadow Corona

Park while helping to guarantee that parks across the city receive fair and adequate investments now and in the future.

 Reject Bad Soccer Stadium Deal for City Taxpayers and Queens Residents
A consortium of wealthy investors led by a billionaire member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi want to build a soccer stadium in the heart of the Flushing Meadow Corona Park -- on space that the Parks Department had planned to turn into a refurbished public gathering place for visitors. But the outline of the plan proposed by the Bloomberg administration inadequately replaces the lost parkland, asks far too little from the soccer stadium’s wealthy backers, and sets a poor example for how our City’s public spaces and parks should be maintained. The Bloomberg administration has proposed replacing the 13 acres of parkland with property on the old Flushing Airport site. But unlike Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, this land is accessible only by car and prone to flooding. Further, the community benefits explored by the Soccer stadium in exchange for its free receipt of public parkland thus far includes only minimal one-time improvements. This deal ignores a long-term dedication to park-wide maintenance and community access in accordance with the park’s sweeping and impressive 2010 Strategic Framework Plan. These concessions are unacceptable and fail to compensate for the permanent privatization of City parkland. The City should work with MLS to find an alternate site for the stadium, whether it is in the city-owned parking lot west of Citi Field, in Willets Point as part of the projected redevelopment of the neighborhood, nearby on the M.T.A.-controlled site of its bus depot, or a sensible space-sharing deal with the New York Yankees, who are part owners of the new soccer franchise.

 Get a Better Deal for City Taxpayers from USTA and Citi Field
The soccer stadium proposal is the latest chapter in a history of big giveaways, empty promises and city neglect of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. A series of land deals has given away parkland to corporate entities, while receiving little back to support the park or City taxpayers. The U.S. Tennis Association, which hosts the U.S. Open in the park, has annual revenues of $200 million per year. 85% of that revenue comes from events held in Queens parkland, yet the City receives only $2.5 million per year. This tiny amount pales in comparison to the $500 million the USTA wants to spend to upgrade its facilities within the park. A proposal to expand USTA’s presence in the park is currently pending before the City Council, and this proposal should not be approved until the City has renegotiated the current agreement with USTA to provide more revenue and upkeep dollars for Corona Park. USTA ought to pay in a million dollars, and make continuing payments of 4% of annual revenue in support of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Citi Field pays even less to the City—just $155,000 to lease its Flushing Meadows site from the city, which will rise to just $400,000 per year in 2014. The City must re-open and renegotiate this contract as well to bring the benefit to taxpayers and park users in line with the benefits enjoyed by the field’s corporate owners. The Mets ought to be paying the same rent and revenue share as they paid in connection with the old Shea Stadium – at least $9 million per year – in support of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The era of giving away prime land to commercial interests at bargain basement prices must come end. If the project is viable, the stadium should be able to pay appropriate commercial rents for land, without expecting subsidized land from city taxpayers.

 Give Flushing Meadows Corona Parks – and Neighborhood Parks – a New Deal
Flushing Meadows Corona Park is the jewel of Queens’ park system – 897 acres of public recreational space, including sporting fields, a swimming pool, a zoo, an art museum, a botanical garden, and striking historic remnants of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. The park is adjacent to some of Queens’ most vibrant and fastest growing immigrant neighborhoods, and is enjoyed by millions of visitors each year. And yet, Flushing Meadows Corona Park has suff ered inattention and disinvestment for decades. Central Park and Prospect Park, the flagship parks of Manhattan and Brooklyn, enjoy substantial private support from conservancies that operate the park on behalf of the city and supplement city workers with large dedicated administrative, maintenance, and upkeep staffs. Central Park’s conservancy adds an additional 274 workers to the 17 dedicated City workers. Prospect Park’s conservancy adds 92 to the 43 City workers. Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the largest of the three parks, has just 18 full time workers and 17 seasonal workers, with no additional dedicated staff from a private conservancy. In addition to the maintenance and staffing imbalance, the Park has a long list of capital projects that have gone unfunded and under-prioritized – from improved drainage and an updated path system to a refurbishment of the historic monuments that harken back to the World’s Fairs. De Blasio supports City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’ proposal for a public -private alliance, similar to the Central Park Conservancy, in Flushing Meadows Corona Park to fund maintenance and park upgrades from donations, concession fees, and the increased contributions from USTA and Citi Field. And de Blasio supports the creation of a Neighborhood Parks Alliance, as proposed by State Senator Dan Squadron. This proposal would encourage 20% of all donations to each large park conservancy be shared with a new citywide fund for currently underfunded neighborhood parks across the New York City. Future payments to the city in exchange for use of parkland could also be paid into this fund to ensure that parks across the city would benefit if parkland is sold or traded for private use, not just the park in the immediate vicinity.
Office of the Public Advocate ▪ 1 Centre St, 15th Flr, New York, NY 10007 ▪ 212.669.7250 ▪

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