Major League Soccer (MLS) held a town hall meeting Tuesday night at Queens Theater in the Park to present its plan to build a new soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows Park and bring a professional soccer franchise to Queens.
Questions were not taken directly from community members. Instead they were written on index cards and given to MLS officials who decided which questions to answer.
Risa Heller said MLS decided to use the cards for questioning instead of having community members raise questions directly due to the size of the audience.
With a capacity crowd, Heller said that the meeting had to be organized in a way for everyone to have a fair chance at having their voice heard.
“We are thrilled with the huge number of people who turned out to learn about and support the plan, and look forward to hearing more from the community as we continue to engage in this process,” she said.
The town hall meeting took place in two separate rooms. The theater was primarily full of supporters and MLS officials. The other room was in the basement of the building in which a live video feed was showing attendees what was going on upstairs.
Those in the basement were not given the opportunity to ask questions directly to MLS officials.
Anna Dioguardi, director of community development at Queens Community House, was there to protest the new stadium, but said she couldn’t get into the main room.
“Others were told that if they did not have reserved seats that they could not go upstairs,” she said.
Geoffrey Croff, president of New York City Park Advocates, said that while MLS representatives were taking information at the door, they were also asking for an individual’s opinion of the proposed stadium.
“This is clearly not a town hall meeting,” he said. “It is a pep rally sponsored, bought, paid for by Major League Soccer.”
Heller said that allegations that people were barred from entering the meeting based on their opinion of the new stadium she said that was simply not true.
“This was a come-one, come-all event,” Heller said.
She said the community received significant notice of the town hall meeting.
“We handed out fliers in the park for the past two weeks, sent invitations to small businesses around the park, advertised on social media since Friday and passed out fliers at subway stations,” Heller said.