News leaked recently that billionaire Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, deputy Prime Misinter of the United Arab Emirates, is consider purchasing the new Major League Soccer franchise.
The stadium would be built on top of the Fountain of Planets, a relic of the 1964 World's Fair, and replace 13 acres of current parkland.
The Fairness Coalition of Queens held a protest in front of the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Manhattan on Thursday.
“Sheikh Mansour’s self-serving financial scheme would never fly in Central Park, and it certainly shouldn’t be able to take flight at the expense of precious parkland in Queens,” said Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. “Queens residents deserve a say in the process, and this billionaire can bet his bottom dollar I’ll make sure their voices are heard.”
“This park is of special value to the residents of its local community,” said Mary Abbate of Queens Community House. “It should not be up for sale.”
In addition to Abbate, thousands of New Yorkers have signed a petition urging the mayor to oppose the proposal.
In addition to losing parkland, the coalition has concerns that the stadium would adversely contribute to flooding issues.
“The park is a federally-protected wetlands area that is necessary to protect Queens residents from flooding and extreme weather,” said a statement released by the coalition. “We need to protect and enhance the park as a natural green space, not develop it further.”
“If this billionaire owner wants a professional soccer team in Queens, let him find his own land away from Flushing Meadow-Corona Park,” said State Senator Tony Avella, who has also been an outspoken critic of the USTA expansion plan that would need far less park space – less than an acre.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a supporter of the plan, said that the parkland was not irreplaceable because MLS and the city have already found an area to turn into a park.
“Flushing Airport will be turned into a park, “ said Bloomberg. “The total parkland will be the same. But also keep in mind that end of the park has seen better days, and there is not a lot of money to fix it.”
“Parkland isn’t the only thing people need, a lot of people want a stadium to enjoy soccer,” continued the mayor. “This will improve that area.”