Wednesday, December 5, 2012

MLS Brings Out The Troups For Flushing Meadows Park Land Grab

Major League Soccer  Commissioner Don Garber last night at the Queens Theater in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Most of the seats in the theater were reserved for groups the league had invited weeks earlier while the opposition said they were regulated to a room downstairs and found out about the event only a day before. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge 

While trying to rev-up the packed crowd - which numbered in the hundreds - Univision star sportscaster Fernando 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."     

- Geoffrey Croft


Rally attendees leaving the event were greeted by park protectors who didn't receive MLS shirts, scarves, balls, food and vouchers from the construction union who were bused in.

Major League Soccer wants to build a 25,000-seat stadium in the middle of Flushing Meadows Corona Park and on Tuesday night, the league made an explicit bid for what it clearly believes is its natural constituency: the borough's soccer-loving Hispanic population.

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.  

The Argentine native wore a 1994 World Cup tie and moved seamlessly between Spanish and English.
His call to the audience to "raise your hand if you want a professional soccer team in Queens" was met with many raised hands and loud cheers.

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.

Critics have argued that the long-neglected Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the largest in Queens and one that is already home to the United States Tennis Association and Citi Field, is an inappropriate place for yet another stadium, especially considering the U.S.T.A.'s expansion plans and the city's intention to build an enormous mall on parkland west of Citi Field.

And while the league has promised to invest millions in refurbishing the seven heavily used soccer fields that surround the site of the future stadium before work on that stadium even begins, others worry that, like the U.S.T.A. and Citi Field, Major League Soccer won't have to share any of its revenues with the park on an ongoing basis.

Despite the fact that the league and city have yet to answer these criticisms, few of those concerns were in evidence Tuesday evening, at what seemed more like a rally than a town hall.

About 15 minutes in, Don Garber, the slender, balding commissioner of Major League Soccer, took to the stage.

He talked about how he, too, comes from a family of immigrants that settled in Queens, and about how soccer is the sport of immigrants.

"You represent the community that we hope will embrace the beautiful game here in your hometown," he said.

"We believe that our country's changing, that we live in a new America, an America that looks different, speaks different and feels different from just about every other time in our history," Garber went on. "And this sport is the sport that can connect with that new America, because we're young, we're diverse and we're global."

"Hopefully you have all of that," he said, turning to his Spanish-language translator.
She did.

"We have 64 nationalities represented on our player rosters," Garber continued. "More than the N.B.A., more than Major League Baseball, obviously more than the N.F.L. and the other pro sports league. This sport represents the diverse culture in our country, and nowhere is that diverse culture represented more so than in the borough of Queens."

Soccer, he said, "is the favorite sport among Latinos."

Glum Major League Soccer  Commissioner Don Garber and  MLS president  Mark Abbott. 

Read More:

Capital - December 4, 2012 - By Dana Rubinstein

A Walk In The Park - December 3,  2012 - By Geoffrey Croft 

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