From the Daily News:
Hundreds of millions of dollars are being generated each year in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park by big-money operations like the Mets, but Queens lawmakers say the park isn’t getting its slice of the pie.
The Mets and the U.S. Tennis Association pay a total of $2.5 million to lease their sites from the city. Meanwhile, the 900-acre park operates on $11.6 million in city funds and counts only 18 full-time city maintenance workers.
“It’s incredibly frustrating that this city has not identified a way to have our park be able to collect on the revenue it generates,” said City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), who called a Council hearing on Friday to address the lack of city funding to help pay for the park’s upkeep.
Ferreras said during the packed hearing that she is in talks with the city to create a public-private alliance — similar to the Central Park Conservancy — to fund much of the maintenance of the nearly 900-acre park, which is surrounded by predominantly immigrant and low-income communities.
Ferreras would like to fill the coffers of the alliance with private donations and a cut of the almost $7 million in annual concession fees and rents that are paid by the businesses and stadiums in the park.
Queens officials and parks advocates blasted the city after learning Citi Field pays only about $155,000 a year to lease its Flushing Meadows site from the city. That amount is slated to jump to $400,000 in 2014.
The U.S. Tennis Association, which hosts the U.S. Open in the park, pays roughly $2.4 million a year.
Meanwhile, Terrace on the Park, a banquet hall in Flushing Meadows, pays the city roughly $2.5 million a year.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates. Citi Field is “clearly not paying their fair share.”
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said, “there’s something fishy in those numbers.”
“It sounds to me like Citi Field and the USTA are getting off really easy,” added Vallone, who said he will introduce a bill requiring all park conservancies with more than $5 million of annual income to give 20% to maintain other needy city parks.
So let me get this straight... The City Council voted to give the Mets a sweetheart deal when they came to them for permission to build a new stadium, yet now this same legislative body is shocked that the Mets have a sweetheart deal? Nice try, but we weren't born yesterday. And what difference does it make how much rent each entity pays under the current system? It goes into the general fund and hardly any of it goes back to Flushing Meadows anyway.
Hey City Council, how about DOING YOUR JOB by budgeting adequate funding for ALL city parks as you are required to, so there will be no need to further privatize our parks or have dog-and-pony show hearings?
Meanwhile, we have Parks Commissioner Veronica White, who conveniently skipped the FMCP hearing, telling Brian Lehrer (at about 14:00) that Parks chose to fund the High Bridge instead.