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In 1895, Frederick Law Olmstead, the genius who created Central and Prospect parks, said, “The survival of our park system requires the exclusion from management of real estate dealers and politicians and that the first duty of our park trustees is to hand down from one generation to the next the treasure of scenery which the city placed in their care.”
The huge increase in our urban population and the congestion in modern cities makes it clear Olmstead’s admonition more than 100 years ago is even more pertinent today. In the depths of the Great Depression, New York City did not sell or barter public parkland for so-called economic purposes.
Unfortunately, the wisdom of the 1930s is lacking in far too many Queens politicians on whom Olmstead’s admonition falls on deaf ears. A case in point is the continual destruction of Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the benefit of real estate moguls and private business interests.
In its Dec. 20-26 issue (“Beep candidates wary of soccer site”), TimesLedger Newspapers wrote about people seeking the office of borough president and their views on allowing Major Soccer League, a private, for-profit business, to construct a stadium in FMCP, which would add another nail in the coffin of desecration of this important and needy park for the underprivileged.
Those seeking office are state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik, former Councilwoman Melinda Katz, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst).
A review of the article makes it clear the only person who understands what Olmstead was saying is Avella. There is no ambiguity in his position. He opposes the MLS stadium in the park. At the bottom of the list is Grodenchik, who, while he claims he needs more information, says he does not oppose private business development in the park — a rejection of Olmstead’s admonition and a slap in the face to the legitimate users of the park.
This should come as no surprise, since he is a clone of Helen Marshall, the current borough president, who for years has participated in the gradual destruction of the park.
Comrie claims he cannot make a decision until he knows the opinions of Council members whose districts abut the park. FMCP is a public park supported by tax dollars and its fate is not just in the hands of a few Council members. His indecision should be cause for concern.
As to Katz and Vallone, their claim to need more information is political nonsense. The only information that is relevant and already on the table is the fact that we are talking about public parkland, a non-renewable resource.
Peralta has already gone on record saying there is nothing wrong with selling off parkland to private, for-profit business interests, another park enemy. Would he dare suggest a stadium in Central, Prospect or Bronx parks for economic purposes?
For anyone who cares about preserving FMCP not just for themselves but for their children and generations as yet unborn, the choice for borough president should be Avella. I believe his election would once and for all signal that FMCP is off limits to real estate moguls and private business interests.
Benjamin M. Haber
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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