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The city is pumping money into the reconstruction of two Flushing Meadows Corona Park soccer fields that lie in the footprint of a 25,000-seat stadium proposed by Major League Soccer, raising questions about the future of the professional sports arena.
Park advocates are wondering why the city is willing to waste millions of dollars on the fields if the plan later goes through.
Two fields, roughly north and east of the Pool of Industry, are two of three pitches the city Parks Department is refurbishing to the tune of $2.8 million, which will fund replacement artificial turf, new landscaping and repainted goals and bleachers, according to Parks.
The fields, which represent $2 million of the cost, also happen to on the site of a 13-acre stadium that Major League Soccer has proposed for the park.
Should the sports complex go according to plan, the fields would have to be ripped up and replaced by MLS, essentially meaning that Parks wasted a portion of the cash.
A confidential plan provided to TimesLedger Newspapers in February shows the stadium may sit on a large, grassy mound that planners dubbed a publicly accessible berm. This mound would extend beyond the immediate footprint of the stadium to encompass two-thirds of the $2.8 million project.
Parks said discussions between the city and the league are ongoing.
But the city thought it would be unfair to delay the much-needed renovations until an agreement and a proposal are ironed out, which only then would usher in the many public reviews and approvals that the project would require, a Parks spokesman said.
Instead, the fields will be open for public use by late spring or early summer, Parks said, and the future of the fields will be dealt with when and if an MLS plan advances.
City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) allocated the money for the projects and said repairs are needed now for the residents who play soccer on the fields.
That did not sit well with Geoffrey Croft, of New York City Park Advocates.
“It’s completely absurd that they are flushing that money down the toilet if they are just going to tear them up again,” Croft said.
An MLS spokeswoman said only that the league continues to be in active and productive discussions with the city. But another park advocacy group said building the stadium now would not make sense after Ferreras’ capital investment.
“It’s great news for the community that the city is finally improving these fields. Flushing Meadows Corona Park is the only major park for our neighborhoods and tens of thousands of people come to play soccer here every weekend,” said Will Sweeney of the Fairness Coalition. “Tearing up these newly improved public soccer fields to build a private, for-profit stadium would be a massive waste of millions of taxpayer dollars and an outrageous corporate giveaway.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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