Major League Soccer (MLS) has it’s eyes on the park as a site for a soccer stadium, which would be home to the league's newest franchise.
However, the proposed location of the stadium has a few nostalgic Queens residents upset because it would eliminate the Fountain of Planets, a relic of the World's Fair
Officials with MLS discussed the proposal with community leaders and elected officials on Monday, December 3, at Queens Borough Hall.
Mark Abbott of MLS said that the stadium would benefit Queens residents by creating jobs, bringing in a local soccer team, and adding improvements to the park.
In terms of employment, Abbott said the stadium would create 2,111 construction jobs, 150 full-time and 700 part-time jobs.
Abbott said MLS surveyed 20 different sites throughout New York City, and it was determined that “MLS belongs in Queens.”
As proposed, the stadium will seat 25,000 fans and, if approved, completed and hosting its first game sometime in 2016. The $300 million stadium would be funded solely by an as-of-yet undetermined owner of the franchise.
MLS has also pledged to put $10 million into the soccer fields surrounding the stadium. These soccer fields are, and will continue to be, used by the public. However, MLS said that it would do the construction on the field and then turn it over to the Parks Department.
The MLS has said that in exchange for taking parkland to create the stadium, it will pay for the expansion of other parks in Queens, but stated on Monday that they do not know what park or what part of the borough will benefit.
Abbott, in his presentation, said the community wants this stadium.
“A recent survey showed that 73 percent of Queens residents support the plan,” he said.
However Joseph Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, was skeptical about the survey and asked for specifics. MLS representatives said the survey consisted of 650 respondents.
“I dare to say that’s not 73 percent of the population,” Conley said.
Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. of Astoria was concerned about how and when the parkland would be replaced.
“I don’t even think we can make a responsible decision on this until we know what land exactly will replace this,” he said.
“What we’ll be doing over the next coming months is working with the community, working with local elected officials to go over and identify what are the most favorable potential spots,” said Cary Hirchsetin, a representative of HR&A Associates, which is working with MLS.
Another issue that came up in the meeting was that of parking during the games. The MLS season runs from March until November, which directly conflicts with New York Mets games.
Abbott stated last night that MLS is in talks with the Mets to use their parking lot for games, which are projected to draw 4,000 vehicles, and said the soccer games will not conflict with any events that occur at Citi Field.
Vincent Arcuri, chairman of Community Board 5, said his biggest fear is that construction will begin and never be completed, leaving the Fountain of Planets destroyed for no reason.
“If that happens, than Queens residents have lost a piece of our heart,” he said.
After the presentation was over, those in attendance seemed disappointed by the information provided.
Conley looked around the room at the other community leaders and said, “I’d very much prefer to hear 'not for sale.'”