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Packed meeting questions Flushing Meadows plans

Leandra Requena (c.) holds up signs protesting development at Flushing Meadows Corona Park along with some young helpers. Photo by Joe Anuta
TimesLedger Newspapers

Several multimillion- and multibillion-dollar projects are proposed for Flushing Meadows Corona Park, but a coalition of Queens organizations contends the combined side effects on the community and the total loss of parkland have not adequately been taken into account.

Hundreds of people gathered at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, at 104-11 37th Ave., in Corona Monday night to hear a presentation about the proposed redevelopment of Willets Point, the proposed expansion of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and a proposed Major League Soccer stadium, all of which would entail some construction on parkland and increase traffic to and from the park.

The consortium, which calls itself the Fairness Coalition of Queens, was formed in response to what the organizers characterized as a lack of outreach on behalf of the developers proposing the projects.

“Any one of these plans is bad, in my opinion,” said Donovan Finn, of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance, who addressed the crowd. “But all of them together are a death blow to Flushing Meadows.”

The city Parks Department website states Flushing Meadows Corona Park is about 1,260 acres, but Finn and the coalition estimated that with all the proposals and additions to the park over the years, including Meadow Lake, roads, stadiums and parking lots, actual usable parkland during construction of these projects would be reduced to 250 acres.

And that would deprive the densely populated communities on either side of the park of a leafy escape in which to relax or engage in recreational activities, according to several neighbors who testified as part of the presentation.

The redevelopment of Willets Point, a collection of auto shops and industrial businesses in what is known as the Iron Triangle, includes the construction of a 1.4-million-square-foot mall to be built in what is now the western parking lot for Citi Field — parkland that is leased to the New York Mets by the city.

The United States Tennis Center is proposing to renovate one of its stadiums, move another and construct parking garages on the site. The entire project will require 0.76 more acres of parkland to be added to the tennis center.

And over the summer, Major League Soccer began talking with Queens lawmakers about building a 9-acre stadium on the site of some derelict fountains from the 1964 World’s Fair.

“All this council is asking for is that we have a voice in the process,” Finn said.

The coalition distributed pledge cards where those in attendance could sign up to flood 311 with phone calls, hand out informational fliers in the park or even testify at an upcoming hearing about Willets Point.

But state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) contended that the proposed soccer stadium enjoys widespread in the community, which would seem to contradict the tone of Monday’s meeting.

“A privately funded soccer stadium to replace a big hole in the ground filled with dirty water is a good deal for soccer fans and the park-goers who would get to enjoy the many upgrades to the park,” he said. “And we can certainly use the construction, game-day and permanent jobs that the stadium would create.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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