|Photo by Geoffrey Croft/A Walk in the Park|
Major League Soccer put on a grand show of support for a $300 million stadium in Queens on Tuesday night — recruiting the bulk of the audience for a packed town hall meeting.
About half of the seats in the Queens Theatre in the Park auditorium were reserved for co-sponsors and boosters, including soccer teams and construction union members.
They were told to arrive at least 30 minutes early — all but ensuring opposing voices were shut out of the 472-seat room, critics said.
“They actively kept out anyone with an opposing view,” said Stony Brook University city planning professor Donovan Finn, who is against the plan at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
MLS officials admitted half the seats were reserved, but noted the auditorium filled quickly.
From A Walk in the Park:
Most of the seats in the theater were filled by groups the league had invited to the event, like Queens High School Soccer, Big Apple Youth Soccer, the Borough Boys, the Building and Construction Trades Council of New York, Allfut, Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Shortly after 7 p.m. — by which point the audience had already partaken of M.L.S.-provided beef and chicken empanadas, collected "Let's bring pro soccer to Queens" T-Shirts," and listened to Spanish-language pop music blaring from the speakers — Univision's star sportscaster Fernando Fiore burst onto the Queens Theatre stage blowing a vuvuzela, according to Capital.
While trying to rev-up the packed crowd - which numbered in the hundreds - Fiore asked how many people play soccer in the park - about 12 hands went up.
As justification for wanting to seize the parkland they want to use to build a 35,000 seat stadium the project's proponents have waged a campaign to disparage the land in a variety of ways.
Apparently not familiar with public fountain policies MLS Commissioner Garber repeatedly stressed that the Fountain of The Planets, the area where they want to build half of the proposed stadium, was "not accessible."
"So It's closed, its closed," Mr. Fiore pressed. "You can't swim."
From the NY Times:
While support for the stadium ran high, concerns surfaced. Toby Ann Stavisky, a state senator from the 16th District, said that she supported the stadium but that more information needed to be exchanged.
“I have questions about the relationship between the soccer field, Major League Soccer and the agreement that they’re going to reach with the City of New York,” Stavisky said. “There are a lot of questions that have not been answered.”
Stavisky mentioned a recent report in Crain’s New York Business that provided details of a prospective deal outlined by the Bloomberg administration, including a 35-year lease at $1 a year with no property taxes or revenue sharing with the city.
“These are issues that have to be resolved,” Stavisky said, adding: “I have reservations about the two areas that they have suggested as parkland. I think they can do better.”
Asked which sites had been suggested as replacement parks, Stavisky declined to comment, saying such information was confidential.
Actually, no it's not. It's public information.
From the Queens Courier:
Councilmembers Peter Vallone and Mark Weprin agreed that before any official stance could be taken on the proposal, a dedicated, well-researched site for the new land has to be chosen.
“I don’t think we can responsibly take a position until we know all the details,” Vallone said. “Especially regarding what parkland would replace the park. This has to be parkland that effectively replaces and is as usable as this parkland is.”
Weprin said he was currently open minded to the idea, but many of the concerns first had to be addressed before any decision could be made.
“I think it could be great for economic development in the area,” he said. “But there are a lot of concerns that I would like to see addressed before we approve it. To reject it out right would be a mistake.”
Bend over, Queens. Here it comes.