Monday, December 10, 2012

Opposition To Flushing Meadows Park Land Grab Takes To The Streets

Community members were joined yesterday by a collection of civic groups and local elected officials in a Take Back Our Park March in Corona Queens.  (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge

Bloomberg, entiende! El parque no se vende!


By Geoffrey Croft

Rain didn't stop hundreds of people from taking to the streets around Flushing Meadows-Corona Park on Sunday to "express outrage about an unprecedented land grab for public parkland."

The crowd chanted "Bloomberg, entiende! El parque no se vende!" ("Bloomberg, understand, the park is not for sale") and "Bloomberg, escucha! Estamos en la lucha!"("Bloomberg, listen, the people are ready to fight!")  as it marched through the immigrant neighborhood of Corona and headed to the park along Roosevelt Avenue under tracks of the 7 train. 

The large crowd make its way along Roosevelt Avenue under the elevated tracks of the number 7 train. 

The group passed the sites of a proposed 1.4 million sq. ft. mall at CitiField and the proposed expansion of the U.S. Tennis Association's facilities before ending at the Fountain of Planets, where Major League Soccer is heavily lobbying to build a new stadium and concert venue on 13 acres.

The community is demanding they find alternate locations.

Participants held signs saying, "Put Soccer Stadium In Central Park", and "No Soccer Stadium inside the Park!" and "PARK NOT FOR $ALE," SAVE OUR PARK! NO LAND- GRABS," and "SAVE OUR PARK! NO TO SOCCER STADIUM,"  and "ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER."  

The demonstration, called Take Back Our Park March made clear once again that this community vehemently opposes all three proposals, which would take more than 50 acres of public parkland in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. But the Bloomberg administration supports the giveaway to private corporations.

Community members were joined yesterday by a collection of civic groups and local elected officials, including City Council Member Julissa Ferreras and State Senator Tony Avella.

The rally began on the steps of Our Lady of Sorrows Church under a light drizzle. 

"We have to tell the Mayor to stay off our grass," said the pastor, Monsignor Thomas Healy.

The church, part of the Queens Congregation United For Acton, had hosted a well-attended town hall forum in September.

State Senator Tony Avella, Monsignor Thomas Healy, City Council Member Julissa Ferreras on the steps of Our Lady of Sorrows Church.  "What would happen if MLS wanted to put the stadium in Central Park," Mr. Avella asked.   

"We cannot make any deals behind closed doors," said City Council Member Julissa Ferreras, who addressed the crowd in both Spanish and English. 

"We cannot have such an important part of our community — the lungs of our community — be negotiated in City Hall.

"We must bring the people to the table," she said to loud cheers, before ridiculing Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber's recent claim that the project was already "at the finish line."

"I cannot be supportive of a project that says it is 'at the finish line' when we are only at the beginning," Ferreras said. "This is our park, and the future of our park must reflect our needs and interests."

State Senator Tony Avella held up a sign that read, "Put Soccer Stadium in Central Park."

"I think this sign says a lot," he said. 

"What would happen if MLS wanted to put the stadium in Central Park. Do you think that would happen? Do you think there would even be a discussion about that?" 

The audience replied, "Noooo."

"But because its next to Latino communities, communities of color, low-income working family communities, the city and MLS think they can get away with this," he said.

"You're here, I'm here to say no! Parkland is sacred."

Avella went on to mention the two other Bloomberg-backed proposals that would take parkland — the USTA expansion and the enormous Willets Point mall. 

The mall, he said, "would take jobs away from this very community."

“The Tennis Association wants to expand and take away more park land,” he said. 

“You’ve got Willets Point development, in which the parking will probably be on park land. Why can’t they buy some private land?”

"It's your park and, as Julissa said, you need to have a voice in what happens. . . . You should be the first word and the last word.

“Parkland is sacred." 

The group passed the parking lot of the proposed 1.4 million sq. ft. mall at CitiField (above) and stopped near the planned expansion of the U.S. Tennis Association site. (below).

Critics say the plans are a threat not only to precious Queens parkland but to the local community and nearby neighborhoods: The projects would increase traffic, pollution, garbage, and flooding, and they would tax an already overcrowded mass transit system and hurt small businesses as well as property values.

Community groups at the march included ALIGN, Asian Americans For Equality, Jackson Heights Green Alliance,  Jackson Heights Beautification Group, Make the Road New York,  New Immigrant Community Empowerment,  Queens Community House,  Queens Congregations United for Action, Queens Pride House, St. Michael's World Apostolate, and Flushing Civic Association. 

A MLS representative (above) tagged along and monitored the event, taking photos and sending text messages.

Elmhurst resident Luis Gonzalez, 33, said he's been playing in the park for eleven years. 

"I play soccer in the park. Our community loves soccer. But that doesn't mean we want a soccer stadium right in the middle of the park." 

He said he would not support any type of construction or development even if they promised jobs. He said he did support the building of a new soccer stadium, but not in a public park.

"There is nothing that compares to the happiness and health that comes from being in Flushing Meadows Park. Why does it have to built in our park, in our public space for private interests?" he asked in spanish which was translated by Hilary Klein, lead organizer for Make the Road New York, a sponsor of the march.  

"Our neighborhoods are vibrant, but also crowded and offer very little open and green space. Flushing Meadows Corona Park is the only place we have for sports, recreation and spending time with family and friends outdoors. If we put a soccer stadium right here, all that will change. Flushing Meadows Park is our backyard. The park must be preserved for generation to come,"

The crowed held up signs, cheered, and chanted one last time.

"Today was a fantastic counterpoint to MLS's totally contrived, so-called Town Hall on Tuesday night," said Donovan Finn,  a professor of Environmental Planning at SUNY Stony Brook and a Queens resident.

"In direct contrast to their manufactured pep rally, today the Fairness Coalition organized hundreds of Queens residents to march almost 2 miles in the cold rain to say, loudly and powerfully that our park is not for sale to the highest bidder. Not for a mall, not for more stadiums, not for parking garages. Our parkland must be protected."

Daniel Estevez, 7, and his sister Clarissa, 5 made their voices heard. (
Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge

Read More:

DNAinfo  - December 10, 2012 -  By Paul DeBenedetto 

WPIX - December 10,  2012

El Diario - December 10, 2012 -  POR: Gustavo Martínez Contreras/EDLP  

A Walk In the Park - December 10, 2012

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A Walk In the Park - December 5, 2012

A Walk In the Park - December 3, 2012

A Walk In the Park - November 30, 2012

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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

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