Friday, November 30, 2012

Full Court PR Blitz For MLS's Flushing Meadows Stadium

  Don Garber
MLS Commissioner Don Garber spoke with reporters last week and said the league was “at the finish line” in negotiations with the city.  Despite a host of obstacles including city, state and federal approvals and the inevitable lawsuits, he says MLS hopes to have the Queens franchise start play in 2016. (Photo: Ricky Fitchett/ 

For months Mr. Gruber has had a number of news briefings touting supposed progress without providing any concrete details.  


Major League Soccer is taking its plan to build a 25,000-seat home for a new team in New York City to the politicians in Queens who will decide the project’s fate, according to Bloomberg News.
The league will present its plan for a stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park to Borough President Helen Marshall, Queens city council members and community leaders on Dec. 3, Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Marshall, said today by e-mail. The project is backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said it will create jobs in an area still recovering from the recession that ended in 2009.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber said this week the league was “at the finish line” in negotiations with the city. Soccer officials are talking to a “wide variety” of potential owners, Garber said, declining to name them.
“There is a lot of work that needs to happen to finalize our agreement with New York City over our use of the land and our ability to lease that land to build the stadium,” Garber said in a conference call with reporters Nov. 26. “I do believe that we will resolve that shortly.”
League officials have been trying for three years to bring a team to New York to create a rivalry with the New York Red Bulls, owned by Austrian energy-drink company Red Bull GmbH. That team plays in a 25,189-seat stadium in Harrison, New Jersey, a 20-minute train ride from Wall Street.

Neighborhood Opposition

The league’s intentions have drawn fire from neighborhood groups and park advocates who say the city would be giving away valuable public land in the 1,255-acre park, the site of two World’s Fairs in the 20th century. The park already houses Citi Field, home of the New York Mets baseball team, and is the site of the U.S. Open tennis tournament.
Flushing Meadows is bordered by the neighborhood of Corona, where Mexicans, Ecuadoreans, Chileans and other Latinos make it one of New York’s most passionate soccer fan bases.
“They want to take 10 to 13 acres of land from some of the most park-deprived people in the city and use it for a stadium,” said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates, a watchdog group. “It absolutely has everything to do with the developers thinking they can get away with things in Queens that they could never get away with in Manhattan. Imagine them trying to take away a chunk of Central Park for a private commercial enterprise.”

Tennis Stadiums

In addition to the league’s plans, Mets co-owner Fred Wilpon and developer Related Cos. want to build a 1.4 million- square-foot mall on a parking lot in the park. Also, the U.S. Tennis Association, which holds the U.S. Open, is seeking to build two stadiums -- one with 15,000 seats and the other with 8,000 -- in a $500 million redevelopment.
The soccer league wants to build a $300 million to $350 million privately financed stadium at the park’s Fountain of the Planets, which isn’t operating. Building the stadium would create 2,200 construction jobs, 800 game-day jobs and 200 full- time positions, Garber said.
“This is a huge economic opportunity in a borough that needs it and in a time when our city could really use the job growth,” Garber said.
Neighborhood activists, including the Fairness Coalition of Queens, have questioned Garber’s estimates and want assurances that jobs associated with the project go to locals.
As part of the plan, the league would replace the turf at existing recreational soccer fields at the park. MLS wants to start construction in 2014 and open the venue in 2016.

Replacing Parkland

The league would also have to replace the parkland acre for acre. It is scouting parcels owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the city Transportation Department along the Flushing Creek, a 1-mile channel near the Van Wyck Expressway. Officials are also looking at an abandoned branch of the Long Island Rail Road in Rego Park.
“It would be difficult for me to support any giveaway of public parkland that does not include solid commitments to park improvement and other community benefits,” City Council member Julissa Ferreras, who represents Corona, said in a statement yesterday.
State Senator Jose Peralta and Assemblyman Francisco Moya, both Democrats who represent neighborhoods around the park, and the Queens Chamber of Commerce have voiced support for the project, according to the New York Daily News and

Cosmos Moved

The last professional soccer team to play in the city was the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League, which popularized the game in the U.S. by signing international stars such as Pele and Franz Beckenbauer. The Cosmos, started in 1971, played home games in three venues, the last one in 1976 at the old Yankee Stadium, before moving to Giants Stadiumin East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Even if the league strikes a deal with the Bloomberg administration, the plan still would need City Council, state and federal approval, said Holly Leicht, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, an advocacy group. Because the U.S. government gave money to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, any taking of land requires federal review, she said.
“The mayor sees this as an opportunity to create economic activity and much-needed jobs in an area of the city that is still suffering from the economic downturn and would like to see it finished as soon as possible,” said Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for Bloomberg. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
Dan Courtemanche, a spokesman for the soccer league, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
Read More:
Bloomberg News - November 29, 2012 - By Martin Braun & Henry Goldman 

The Assocated Press via Sports Illustrated 

New York Daily News - October 22, 2012 - By Geoffrey Croft

A Walk In The Park - October 10, 2012 

A Walk In The Park - October 9, 2012

A Walk In The Park - October 9, 2012 

A Walk In The Park - October 6, 2012 

A Walk In The Park - October 5, 2012 

A Walk In The Park - October 4, 2012 

A Walk In The Park - October 2,  2012 

A Walk In The Park - September 15, 2012 -  By Geoffrey Croft 

A Walk In The Park - June 23, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lawyer Sued For Assaulting Cyclist In Bike Lane By Central Park

Courtney Fullilove sued lawyer Marshall Feiring this week as a result of a June 13 incident when she was riding in a bike lane near W. 108th St. & Central Park West where she was allegedly assaulted. 


In June, Courtney Fullilove, an assistant professor of history at Wesleyan University, was riding her bike in the bike lane on Central Park West when she was allegedly assaulted by Manhattan-based attorney Marshall Feiring, who resides near the park. Feiring was charged with two counts of assault and harassment, and it's still unclear what may have motivated his alleged actions. But Fullilove believes she did nothing to provoke Feiring before he allegedly grabbed the security chain tied around her waist and violently yanked her off her bike, according to gothamist.
According to a civil lawsuit against Feiring, Fullilove was seriously injured in the crash, "suffering a severe concussion, memory loss, psychological trauma, fatigue, loss of vision, recurrent disabling headaches, spinal derangement, contusions to the right hip, abrasions to the nose and face, and other injuries, requiring emergency treatment at a hospital, and additional medical care and assistance thereafter. Fullilove sustained pain, suffering and mental anguish due to these injuries."
The crash happened in the bike lane near the intersection of West 108th Street and Central Park West around 7:45 p.m. on June 13th. Fullilove lost all memory of the incident due to head trauma, but her lawyer, Steve Vaccaro, says bystanders witnessed the assault and have given statements, and police responding to the scene arrested Feiring, who lives near the park. His attorney, Sanford Talkin (visit him at!), declined to comment on what his client's motivation may or may not have been, telling us only that Feiring "maintains his innocence and looks forward to his day in court."
Feiring's next court appearance is in December. In a letter to Manhattan DA Cy Vance, Fullilove's lawyer urged the DA to "vigorously prosecute Fiering," arguing that his client "was wearing a helmet but still sustained a severe concussion, and continues to suffer the apparently permanent effects of traumatic brain injury. The circumstances of the assault bespeak malice. There is no evidence that Fullilove... violated any traffic law or otherwise threatened or provoked Feiring. Indeed, Feiring illegally entered the bike lane to reach Fullilove."
Her civil lawsuit against Feiring seeks unspecified damages, and also serves as a reminder of the media-amplified tension between pedestrians and cyclists in the park. One month after Fullilove's crash, a legally blind lawyer was jogging in Central Park when he was hit by a cyclist—he suffered a fractured pelvis and hip, and lost some teeth—he also couldn't get out of his hospital bed for two days. In the wake of that high-profile accident, the NYPD started handing out brochures to remind cyclists that the speed limit in the park (25 mph) also applies to cyclists.
Read More:

gothamist - November 28, 2012  - By John Del Signore

Teed-off tax attorney wrenched cyclist to the ground near Central Park and gave her severe concussion that derailed her academic career, lawsuit claims
New York Daily News - November 28, 2012 - By Stephen Rex Brown

Wesleyan history professor ‘pulled from bike’ sues Manhattan lawyer
New York Post - November 29, 2012 -  By Dareh Gregorian and Kirstan Conley

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Man Exposes Himself To Jogger In Forest Park


By Geoffrey Croft

A forty-year-old jogger reported that a man exposed himself to her in Forest Park on Wednesday morning, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

According to the police the woman was jogging with her dog when a man approached and pulled out his penis. 

He then ran off according to the police.

The incident occurred at 10:00am in the park near Myrtle Ave and Park Lane within the confines of the 102nd Pct.

The assailant was described as a white male, 5'10 in his 30's with brown hair. He was wearing a brown hat and brown jogging pants.  

Last week the body of 21-year-old Thomas Dudley of Brooklyn was found stabbed to death  the parking lot of the park near the Forest Park bandshell.  

On August 15th,  a woman was also attacked in the park. Police reported that the victim was pushed to the ground and forcibly touched.

On November 9th, a 24-year-old jogger was groped In Central Park by a teen. A group of four or five kids surrounded her and demanded a kiss. When she refused one of the teens forcibly touched her.

Read More:

Two Bodies Found By Park Workers-In Different Queens Parks
A Walk In The Park - November 15,  2012- By Geoffrey Croft 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Randall's Island Redistricting Deal Alleged

The controversial Randall's Island tennis facility. Under redrawn City Council district lines Randall's and Wards Island would become part of District 22 in Queens if adopted. (Photo by Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) 


Randall’s Island, a tract of less than a square mile in the East River, is part of the borough of Manhattan.

The move may violate the New York City Charter, according to one good-government group.
Yet a panel that recently drew New York City Council district lines, which are set to stand for the next decade, moved the sparsely populated island from its current Manhattan council district into a district that is otherwise entirely in Queens. That’s even though Queens is geographically farther from the island than Manhattan and the Bronx are, according to Crain's New York Business.      

And East Harlem and South Bronx community activists call the move politically motivated, arguing that Randall’s Island was corralled into Queens because the island’s current council member, Melissa-Mark Viverito of Manhattan, and local activists have emerged as thorns in the side of city officials who are pushing private development on Randall’s Island.
For years, community activists in the South Bronx and East Harlem have argued that the island should be the public backyard for their communities, where quality parkland is scarce. Instead, they argue, the Bloomberg administration has attempted to turn Randall’s Island into a country club for the rich, full of golf courses and tennis courts.
The 15-member Districting Commission was appointed by the City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. At public hearings, South Bronx and East Harlem activists argued for the island to remain in a Manhattan-based district. There was little public support for moving it to Queens.
“I think it was an effort to get Viverito out of there,” said Harry Bubbins of Friends of Brook Park, a South Bronx community group. “People in Queens are going to feel less connected to it and pay less attention to what’s happening [than Manhattan and Bronx groups].”
Common Cause New York released a statement arguing that the new lines likely violate the charter.
“The New York City Charter is very clear that districts should not cross borough borders unless absolutely necessary,” the good-government group wrote. “There is no question that Randall’s Island has a much closer association with the community of East Harlem than with Astoria, sharing a borough, community board, and current Council District 8.”
Under the new district maps, Randall’s Island would be represented by whoever wins a 2013 race for the seat currently held by term-limited Queens Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.
A Districting Commission spokeswoman said Randall’s Island was grouped with Queens in order to make Ms. Mark-Viverito’s district more Hispanic.
“The commission decided that in order for the proposed District 8 to become more of a Latino district and to reflect the Hispanic population growth in the Bronx, they decided to include more of the borough and had to remove Randall’s Island from the proposed map,” she said.
Randall’s Island has a population of only about 1,600 (largely made up of homeless people and residents of a psychiatric ward), so it’s unlikely that its population numbers played a major role in its move from Manhattan to Queens. (However, a supporter of Ms. Mark-Viverito noted after this article was initially posted that the population shift actually could have made a difference in controversially making her seat narrowly majority-Bronx.)
Since 2003, the Bloomberg administration has given $155 million for 65 new ballfields, new bike and hiking paths, comfort stations, and shoreline reconstruction to the Randall’s Island Sports Foundation, a public-private group that manages the parkland, the Daily News has reported. A number of controversies have erupted, including over a 2006 deal between the city and Upper East Side private schools in which the schools were to pay $52.6 million for their construction and refurbishment in exchange for exclusive use. (The deal was struck down in court.) A deal for a controversial water park was also scuttled in 2007 amid opposition. More recently, a swanky tennis center with high court fees run by tennis star John McEnroe was opened amid rancor from East Harlem park advocates, who noted the project did not go through the normal city land use process. Mr. McEnroe is now seeking to add new courts.
“All of this has been pay-to-play. It’s public land being given to private developers,” charged Geoffrey Croft, of New York City Park Advocates. “If Bloomberg wants to give his own land to private developers, that’s his choice.”
Mr. Bubbins and other advocates say bringing litigation charging that the new district violates the charter is an option. But they’re hopeful that the furor over the Brooklyn Council district that could help Assemblyman Vito Lopez run for a council seat will lead to the council’s rejection of new district lines by a Dec. 7 deadline. Mr. Lopez has been embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal.
If the City Council rejects the new lines,  district lines would go back to the commission for further revision.
Read More:

Randall’s Island redistricting deal is alleged
Crain's New York Business - November 27, 2012 -  By Chris Bragg   

Crain's New York Business - November 26, 2012 - By Chris Bragg 

City & State - October 23, 2012 - By Nick Powell 

Common Cause/NY Statement on NYC Proposed Redistricting Maps

NEW YORK, NY (11/20/2012)(readMedia)-- On November 15th, the Districting Commission released its revised proposed map for the 2013 redistricting of the New York City Council. Although the maps for Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island represent a reasonable proposal based on Charter criteria and population statistics, the plan for Upper Manhattan and the South Bronx continues to be problematic.There are three aspects of the maps which raise substantial questions: the ratio of representation between the Bronx and Manhattan, Council District 8, and the removal of Randall's Island from Manhattan into Queens.

"The Districting Commission's proposed map for the New York City Council appears to be influenced by political forces outside of the Charter's objective criteria. This raises serious concerns about the Commission's independence and calls into question the validity of the process," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.

The Bronx vs. Manhattan
In the current New York City Council map Manhattan has ten city council seats that are either entirely or majority in the borough (districts 1-10) while the Bronx has eight (districts 11-18). The reason is very simple: Manhattan has roughly 200,000 more people than the Bronx. As of the 2010 census, the relationship has not changed proportionally.
2010 Total Pop.Council District Average Pop.Council Districts

However, the Districting Commission has proposed to give the Bronx and Manhattan equal representation on the City Council with nine districts each by moving the majority of District 8's population into the Bronx. In order to do so, the Commission has systematically overpopulated the Manhattan districts in comparison to the Bronx districts. Districts 1,2,3,4,5,6, and 8 are all packed to the maximum legal limit, pushing the average deviation of Manhattan districts to +4.14%. In the Bronx, the average deviation is only +0.7%.

Council District 8
The absurd lengths to which the Commission has gone to give the Bronx equal control on the council is reflected in East Harlem's Council District 8. The other districts in Manhattan are packed just to the right extent to shift District 8 to a majority-Bronx population. The Bronx-Manhattan breakdown for District 8 is now 84,377 (Bronx) and 84,357 (Manhattan), giving the district a majority Bronx population by a mere margin of 20.

There is no question that District 8 must move farther north into the Bronx as a result of population declines registered in Washington Heights and the need to balance populations and follow the Voting Rights Act, but there is no reason it needs to move so far into the Bronx that it becomes a majority-Bronx district. At an October 4th public hearing, Common Cause New York presented testimonydemonstrating how the Commission's September draft could be adjusted to have District 8 maintain its current boundaries in East Harlem and Randall's Island. Despite testimony from East Harlem community residents to maintain the current boundaries of East Harlem in District 8, the Commission only restored a few blocks along Park Avenue.

Randall's Island
The New York City Charter is very clear that districts should not cross borough borders unless absolutely necessary. The Commission staff was specifically instructed to respect natural boundaries. Further, the City Charter provides: "district lines shall keep intact neighborhoods and communities with established ties of common interest and association, whether historical, racial, economic, ethnic, religious or other." Yet Randall's Island, part of Manhattan, has been shifted into the Astoria Queens-based District 22. There is no question that Randall's Island has a much closer association with the community of East Harlem than with Astoria, sharing a borough, community board, and current Council District 8. The Commission has provided no justification for this arrangement, which appears, on its face, to violate the Charter.

New York's City Council redistricting process is intended to adjust political representation in line with changes to the city's population as measured by the decennial Census. The City Charter (Chapter 2-A § 52) stipulates that districts must be redrawn according to a strict set of criteria to assure proportional and accurate representation:
  • Districts may vary from the average population by a maximum of +/- 5%
  • Districting plan must ensures the fair and effective representation of the racial and language minority groups in New York protected by the Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • District lines must keep intact neighborhoods and communities with established ties of common interest and association
  • Each district shall be compact and shall be no more than twice as long as it is wide.
  • A district shall not cross borough or county boundaries.
  • Districts shall not be drawn for the purpose of separating geographic concentrations of voters enrolled in the same political party into two or more districts