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Supporters and opponents of a proposed soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park fortified their ranks recently, with Major League Soccer touting the support of 1,000 small businesses and opponents winning the backing of a major borough civic group.
MLS held a news conference last Friday at Sabor Latino in Elmhurst to show off the small business support the league said it had garnered for its proposal to build a 25,000-seat capacity stadium on a roughly 13-acre portion of the park, which is now the site of a derelict fountain from the 1964 World’s Fair.
“Small businesses will receive an important boost in their bottom line,” said state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who has been a vocal supporter of the project. “But we need to make sure everything that is being stipulated will be done.”
Peralta was referring to MLS’s promises of refurbishing the soccer fields and replacing the parkland, which the league said is currently being incorporated into a legal agreement with the city called a memorandum of understanding. Specifics on where that parkland will be located are still not finalized.
Peralta, along with others who spoke at the event, including Brett Lashbrook, legal counsel and lobbyist for MLS, said soccer fans would eat and shop in neighborhoods like Corona, Elmhurst and Flushing before and after games, and based this assumption on observations from the league’s stadiums from around the country.
But there is an entirely new neighborhood, the Willets Point redevelopment, planned for just north of the stadium. The project would transform the auto body and junkyards east of Citi Field into a new mixed-use neighborhood.
To the west of Citi Field, and right near the closest public transportation stops along the subway and Long Island Rail Road, the developers plan to build a 1.4 million-square-foot mall, which is also set to contain numerous eateries.
That same mall was the reason opponents of the project received the backing of a major Queens civic group.
The Queens Civic Congress, an umbrella group of more than 100 civic and community groups in the borough, Monday decided to oppose the construction of the stadium and join forces with a group called the Fairness Coalition.
The congress cited the over-commercialization of the park — the United States Tennis Association is planning a modest expansion to its facilities there as well — and pointed out that while many people use the dilapidated Fountain of the Planets as an excuse to put a stadium in its place, it believes the stagnant pool of water is more representative of the city’s neglect of the greenspace.
“If this was a project all by itself, it might be something that we would embrace,” said Richard Hellenbrecht, head of the congress. “But especially in light of the tennis center expansion and, above all, the shopping mall and entertainment center, it just blows it out of the water.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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