Monday, April 29, 2013

Abu Dhabi Sheik Said To Pursue Soccer Franchise For Queens

Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, center, whose private investment group owns Manchester City in the English Premier League, during a match against Liverpool in 2010. Major League Soccer is attempting to install 35,000 seat-soccer stadium /concert venue in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.   MLS hopes to reveal the plan within the next 4 to 6 weeks.  (Andrew Yates/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images) 


The Russian entrepreneur Mikhail D. Prokhorov owns the Nets basketball team. Red Bull, the Austrian-based energy drink company, owns the Red Bulls soccer team. Now a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi is poised to become the latest foreign owner of a New York-area professional sports franchise, according to the New York Times.

Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, whose private investment group owns Manchester City in England’s Premier League, has entered final negotiations to purchase a franchise of Major League Soccer to be situated in Queens, according to two people with knowledge of the negotiations.
The prospective owners are willing to pay a $100 million expansion fee for the league’s 20th team, which could be called New York City F.C. and begin play in 2016, the two people said. That would more than double the expansion fee of $40 million paid by the Montreal team that entered M.L.S. in 2012.
After months of public hearings, applications and discussions, a deal for a privately financed $340 million stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which would hold 25,000 spectators and could be expanded to 35,000, could be completed in several weeks, according to several people with knowledge of the deal.
The league wants to make the announcement before May 25, when Manchester City is scheduled to play an exhibition at Yankee Stadium against its English rival Chelsea, the two people familiar with the negotiations said.
Neither Don Garber, the commissioner of M.L.S., nor Sheik Mansour could be reached for comment Sunday. Last week, Garber told reporters he hoped to make an announcement about the expansion team in New York in four to six weeks. In addition, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told reporters last week, “Hopefully, we’re getting close to announcing a new soccer stadium here in Flushing Meadow Park.”
While foreign ownership of professional teams is relatively limited in the United States, it is rarer still for those owners to be of Arab descent. But the influence of oil and gas money in the Middle East has spread in international soccer in recent years.
In 2008, Sheik Mansour bought Manchester City for $330 million. Last year, Qatar Sports Investments, a branch of the emirate’s sovereign wealth fund, completed its buyout of Paris St.-Germain in the French league, valuing the club at $130 million.
Qatar also won a contentious vote to host the 2022 World Cup. And beIN Sport, a subsidiary of Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based television network, now televises soccer matches in the United States, some featuring the American national team, others showcasing top leagues in Spain, England, Italy and France.
For M.L.S., an affiliation with the Abu Dhabi royal family and the owners of Manchester City would broaden the global footprint of the sport in the United States. And the association with wealthy owners willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on their team would provide another vote of confidence in soccer’s potential in America, sports industry experts said. Owning a team in New York could also provide a springboard for other opportunities, including potential real estate investments.
In 2012, M.L.S. had a higher average attendance than the N.B.A. and the N.H.L. A recentglobal survey named it the seventh-best soccer league in the world.
“If England has the world’s biggest soccer league, then America has the most up and coming league,” said Steve Horowitz, a partner at Inner Circle Sports, an investment bank that has put together soccer deals, including one last year on behalf of Erick Thohir, anIndonesian media magnate who bought a controlling stake in D.C. United.
Sheik Mansour, who is in his early 40s, was listed in 2009 by Forbes as its newest Gulf billionaire, with a personal fortune of $4.9 billion and a collective family fortune estimated at $150 billion.
Abu Dhabi, a part of the United Arab Emirates, holds 9 percent of the world’s oil reserves, and Sheik Mansour is chairman of its International Petroleum Investment Company, part of what Forbes estimated as a $650 billion sovereign wealth fund.
Buying a soccer club allows the establishment of business and political connections and provides good public relations in enhancing Abu Dhabi’s global business empire, said Stefan Szymanski, a professor of sports management at the University of Michigan and a co-author of the book “Soccernomics.”
“These are long-term investors, the Warren Buffetts of the Middle East,” Szymanski said. “It almost doesn’t matter what plays inside the stadium. It’s the location, the city, that indicates it’s a good investment.”
A salary cap in M.L.S. would prohibit Sheik Mansour from spending hundreds of millions of dollars to sign players, as he has done with Manchester City, which in 2012 won its first Premier League title in 44 years and is now valued by Forbes at $689 million, the fourth richest in England and an increase of 56 percent from last year.
A New York franchise could help develop young players for Manchester City, Szymanski said, while Sheik Mansour positions himself in the event M.L.S. takes off in terms of attracting a wider television audience, offering larger salaries and becoming more appealing to soccer fans in the United States who now prefer the international game.
Buying into M.L.S., Szymanski said, may also be a subtle signal by Sheik Mansour that he has other alternatives if he begins to feel impinged by a European soccer initiative called Financial Fair Play. This is an attempt to curb runaway deficit spending and restrict teams to income generated from broadcast rights, ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, merchandising and competition prize money. A person familiar with the M.L.S. negotiations said the league would have been more wary of Arab ownership if a New York team were being bought by the Qatari royal family, which has shown support for Hamas, aPalestinian group that Israel and the United States consider a terrorist organization.
Referring to the Qatari ownership of Paris St.-Germain, the person familiar with the Abu Dhabi negotiations said, “That would have been a much larger challenge.”
Several experts said they would not expect much political blowback from an Abu Dhabi ownership in New York.
“These people have a huge interest in political stability,” Szymanski said. “Jihad would be the furthest thing from these people’s minds.”
Still, legislative hurdles remain, even with the ownership group proposing to spend hundreds of millions of its own money instead of asking the city for hundreds of millions in subsidies. The City Council, no doubt aware that some community groups have opposed the project because of the loss of park space, must approve the land use plans for the stadium. The State Legislature also must approve plans to replace the 10 to 13 acres of parkland that would be set aside for the stadium. M.L.S. and representatives of Sheik Mansour are also in discussions with the Mets about using the parking lot at Citi Field on game days.
The city said it was in “active discussions” with M.L.S. But pending a final deal, the Parks Department is spending $2 million to install two new soccer fields and make other repairs to the land where the proposed stadium would sit.
Read More:

New York Times - April 29, 2013 - By Jere Longman and Ken Belson 

A Walk In The Park  - April 29, 2013

MLS hopes To Reveal Flushing Meadows Park Soccer Stadium Plan In 4 To 6 Weeks

“If we get this done, it will be in Flushing Meadows Park. There is no Plan B,” MLS commissioner Don Garber told the AP on Thursday.

Major League Soccer hopes to build a controversial $300 million, 35,000-seat soccer stadium/concert venue on the Fountain of the Planets site in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park located on the Flushing River. Families bike around  the fountain last weekend. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.


Major League Soccer hopes to announce plans in four to six weeks for a stadium in Queens for a 20th team, according to the Associated Press.

The league and New York City have been involved in negotiations to build a stadium on a 10-acre site in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. MLS hopes a team there would start play in 2016 and be rivals of the New York Red Bulls, who play in Harrison, N.J.

“If we get this done, it will be in Flushing Meadow Park. There is no Plan B,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber told the Associated Press Sports Editors on Thursday.

Garber said the league hopes to have an agreement with New York City, with the New York Mets’ ownership group to use the parking lots at Citi Field and with an ownership group that would pay a $100 million expansion fee.

Several hurdles would remain, including New York City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure and consideration by the local Community Planning Board. The parkland used for arena would have to be replaced.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports the stadium. His term expires at the end of the year, and none of the candidates to succeed him has backed the project.

“I think it was really good that they didn’t say no,” Garber said. “It shows that there’s some political value in not yet taking a stand.”

Passive recreation area in the park that would be destroyed in order to build replacement artificial turf fields under Major League Soccer's plan.

The revived New York Cosmos, who start play in the second-tier North American Soccer League on Aug. 3, are not discussing bidding to become the new MLS team. Garber said he speaks with the Cosmos owners but was dismissive of their efforts.

The Cosmos played the majority of their seasons at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

“The Cosmos are a very storied brand steeped in the past,” he said. “Pele is not playing for them anymore, and neither is Franz Beckenbauer.”

Read More:

CBSNewYork/AP - April 25, 2013

New York Post - April 26, 2013 - By Rich Calder

Man Survives Manhattan Bridge Jump Pulled From BB Park's Pier 1


A man was pulled from the waters off Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park last night after he survived jumping off the Manhattan Bridge, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

NYPD Harbor unit responded to the incident at 11:07 and rescued him from the East River. 

The man was brought to Long Island College Hospital breathing according to sources.

EMS reports that he was in cardiac arrest.  

No other information is available at this time. 

- Geoffrey Croft

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dumping At Field of Dreams Park In S. I. Greenbelt

Shore Photos -- April 24, 2013
Unwanted junk -€” a shredded mattress, a hose, black garbage bags, cones, and more -€” have been left at the Field of Dreams Park in New Springville, part of the Greenbelt (Photo: Mark Stein/Staten Island Advance)

Staten Island

A park based in the Greenbelt containing a ballfield and model airplane field has a pair of signs outside it on Forest Hill Road in New Springville informing visitors that illegal dumping can result in fines as high as $4,000, according to the Staten Island Advance.

Apparently, nobody is reading them, or no one fears being caught.

Last Thursday, a visit to the Field of Dreams by the Advance resulted in sights that would have others calling it a nightmare. In addition to the grass and brush being trimmed and in good standing, large piles of debris were spotted beyond the ballfield next to the model airplane area frequently used by the Staten Island Radio Control Modelers.

Spotted were an abandoned hose, a destroyed mattress, filled black garbage bags, dirty cones, rusted paint cans, an overflowing garbage pail, and what appears to be the top of a Jeep.

The findings came after a visitor sent the Advance a photograph of a huge pile of tires on the grounds. The anonymous sender said it was one of three.

The city Parks Department did not respond to a request for a comment regarding previous dumping incidents at the site.

The Field of Dreams Park is connected to LaTourette Golf Course and is located near Richmond Avenue, across from Costco’s side parking lot.

Read More:

Staten Island Advance - April 26, 2013 - Mark D. Stein 

Metropolitan Museum of Art Lawyers Admit No “Formal" Agreement Exists Allowing Admission Fees

Metropolitan Museum of Art1 New York Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, situated on Parks Department property in Central Park, is facing two multimillion-dollar lawsuits by the public in Manhattan Supreme Court protesting the museum’s practice of soliciting the $25 entry fee.  The original six-page handwritten 1878 agreement, states the museum "be kept open and accessible to the public free of charge from 10 o’clock until half an hour before sunset” Wednesday through Saturday. 
Museum lawyers admitted there was no “formal amendment” that allows them to charge an admission fee.  
The Metropolitan Museum of Art faces a potential $40 million payout if it loses the suits which seek compensation for members and visitors who paid with a credit card in the past few years. A museum spokesman declined to provide a copy of the agreement with the city that dictates fee policies in exchange for generous subsidies and free rent at the Central Park site.
Manhattan Supreme Court judge recently ruled the Bloomberg administration, using Park Enforcement Patrol officers, illegally issued hundreds of thousands worth of tickets to disabled veteran vendors in front of the museum.  

- Geoffrey Croft
The Metropolitan Museum of Art should not be allowed to charge patrons admission – and has been misleading the public about why it’s allowed to accept fees in the first place, according to city records obtained by the Post.
The Fifth Avenue institution recently argued it was granted permission to solicit $25 entry fees “after the museum received approval from New York City’s Administrator of Parks ... more than four decades ago.”
But the Post obtained all records governing the admissions policy between the Met and the city going back over 100 years, to determine if that document actually exists.
It does not.
In the original six-page handwritten 1878 agreement, the city gives the museum use of the Fifth Avenue building.
In exchange, it requires the museum “be kept open and accessible to the public free of charge from 10 o’clock until half an hour before sunset” Wednesday through Saturday.
Subsequent documents show that there were discussions about instituting fees between the city and the museum during Mayor John Lindsay’s term in the 1970s, but nothing was ever approved.
The Met is currently facing two multimillion-dollar lawsuits by members protesting the museum’s practice of soliciting the $25 entry fee.
Museum lawyers admitted there was no “formal amendment” to the original lease, but said in court papers that the city has long been aware of their “pay-what-you-wish” admission policy.

Read More:

The Met’s art of $$ deception
New York Post - April 27, 2013 - By Julia Marsh

Metropolitan Museum of Art Sued Over "Voluntary Admissions"
A Walk In The Park - March 18, 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013

Suspects Sought In Sexual Assault & Robbery In Sara D. Roosevelt Park

NYPD sketch.
One of two suspects wanted in the alleged sexual assault & robbery of a 38-year-old woman in Sara D. Roosevelt Park on April 15, 2013. The incident occurred near Grand & Chrystie Sts. at approximately 9:30pm. Police released details of the incident yesterday. 


According to the police, the woman had stopped to ask the men for directions, according to  The Low-Down. 

They reportedly began walking with her; one suspect grabbed the victim from behind and pinned her against a wall. Police say the other man then punched the woman in the ribs and thigh, sexually abused her and then ran off with her purse. 

If you have any information about this crime, call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.

Read More:

Suspects Wanted; Woman Attacked at Grand & Chrystie
The Low-Down - April  25, 2013

Central Park: 13-Year-Old Girl Arrested For Attempted Robbery Of Woman, 38, - Other Suspects Wanted

Two children are wanted for an attempted cell phone robbery in Central park.
These kids are wanted for an attempted cell phone robbery in Central Park. They demanded a 38-year-old woman's phone, but she bravely fought them off.  A boy who appeared to be 11 or younger tried to grab her purse.  The attempted robbery took place on April 22 near the corner of Fifth Avenue and E. 107th St.  (Image: NYPD)


A 13-year-old girl was busted Thursday after trying to swipe a cell phone from a woman walking through Central Park — but police said they’re still looking for the suspect’s pint-sized accomplice, according to the NewYork Daily News.  

The 38-year-old victim was in the park near Fifth Ave. and E. 107th St. at 8 p.m. Monday when the teen demanded her phone.

The woman refused and a boy who appeared to be 11 or younger tried to grab her purse, officials said.

The girl was charged with attempted robbery after police got a tip.  

Read More:
13-year-old girl arrested after she and friend tried to steal cell phone from woman in Central Park
New York Daily News - By Thomas Tracy - April 25, 2013

Victim In Central Park Face Mauling Can Sue Dog's Owner


A Manhattan woman whose face was mauled by a dog she was trying to help in Central Park can sue the canine’s owner, a judge ruled Tuesday, according to The New York Daily News. 

Danielle Gervais’ face was chewed up in Central Park in July 2009 when Ruby, a German shepherd-Collie mix. She required more than 30 stitches to close the wounds and has permanent scars.

Ruby’s owner, real estate agent Meresa Laino, had argued that Gervais assumed a risk when she decided to “meddle in a perilous situation” and untangle Ruby’s paws that were stuck in a wire mesh fence near the Great Lawn.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan said Gervais, a television executive, had presented enough evidence about the dog’s “dangerous propensities” to go to court.  

Read More:

Victim can sue dog owner in Central Park face mauling, judge rules
New York Daily News - April 24, 2013 - By Barbara Ross

Helen Marshall Approves USTA Expansion With Pay-To-Play Conditions

As expected, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall formally approved the expansion of the USTA facility in Flushing Meadows Corona Park with conditions.   The conditions include the creation of an FMCP alliance with the USTA donating $15 million dollars towards the fund.    

Throughout the USTA hearing held by Helen Marshall on April 4th,  the Borough President repeatedly complimented the USTA and their supporters and consistently interrupted speakers who criticized her. 


Queens Borough President Helen Marshall issued her formal recommendation to the City Council regarding the proposed expansion of theNational Tennis Center (NTC) in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park last Thursday, Apr. 11.

In her letter, Marshall recommended the approval of the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) request to alienate an additional .68 acres of park land for the expansion.

The alienated land would allow the USTA to move seven courts 30 feet south of their current location in order to expand an interior walkway, Dan Zausner, chief operating officer of the NTC, stated at an Apr. 8 Borough Board meeting.

Of the six community boards affected by the plan, three voted to approve and three voted to deny. All but one rendered their verdicts with stipulations requesting money from the USTA to improve the park and improve community outreach programs. Boards 6, 7 and 8 voted to approve, while boards 3, 4 and 9 disapproved.

In the letter, Marshall affixed a number of conditions motivated by community boards’ requests:

• any alienated land should be fully replaced;

• all trees removed or damaged must be replaced in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in accordance with Department of Parks and Recreation’s (DPR) tree replacement specifications and policy;

• a Project Labor Agreement must be developed, finalized and in place well before any work begins;

• a specific plan to engage Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises, promote local hiring (including job fairs) and maximize local business opportuntities must be developed, finalized and in place before any work begins;

• a USTA donation to establish a $15 million FMCP Benefit Fund that would “supplement, not supplant” the NYC Budget basic allocation for the DPR’s maintenance and operation of the park;

• the creation of an FMCP alliance that would include representatives from affected community boards, the Office of Borough President, affected City Council members and the DPR and would be responsible for administration of the FMCP Benefit Fund, private fundraising for ongoing park maintenance and upkeep, park programs and improvements; and

• the stadium to be rebuilt on the footprint of the existing Louis Armstrong Stadium must also carry the name of the jazz legend.

The recommendation noted the NTC stimulates local business, citing USTA estimates that the US Open, an international tennis tournament held at the NTC, attracts 700,000 spectators a year to Queens over the event’s two-week span. The letter also states that the USTA is “actively involved with programs and events to support NYC school children, 70 school tennis programs and the community at large.” The USTA has said it serves more than 100,000 individuals who are mostly Queens residents and provides approximately $1 million a year for initiatives including free tennis programs, free equipemnt, court refurbishments and scholarships.

When asked, Zausner’s office would not comment on how feasible the conditions were or whether the USTA would meet them.

Read More:

Times Newsweekly - April 18, 2013 -  By Max Jaeger

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Central Park: NYPD Vehicle Bursts Into Flames

The charred metal skeleton of an NYPD Interceptor is all that remains after suddenly bursting into flames last evening in Central Park. An officer from the NYPD's Explosive Unit (above) investigates the cause of the fire.   (Photos: Geoffry Croft/NYC Park Adovcates) Click on images to enlarge.

In July an NYPD scooter burst into flames in Brooklyn Bridge Park.


By Geoffrey Croft

An NYPD officer was forced to abandon his vehicle after it suddenly burst into flames in Central Park, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

The officer was about to turn into the bridal path from the 86th Street Transverse Road just after 5:00pm when flames began to engulf the three wheel Interceptor vehicle according to police sources.

The officer quickly jumped out of the burning vehicle.

According to DCPI the officer suffered no injuries.

86th Street Transverse Road where the incident occured around 5:00pm.

NYPD's Explosive Unit responded to investigate the cause of the fire.  

Police at the scene described the officer's polyester uniform as "scorched" and "singed."

 "He was lucky," an officer said. "He was in the vehicle while it was in flames, that must have been pretty scary." 

According to police sources the officer worked in the Manhattan North Scooter Task force on the noon to eight tour.

Officers also said a scooter went up in flames in Central Park a couple of years ago near the pump house.

Officers investigate the cause of the fire.

In July 2012 an NYPD scooter burst into flames in Brooklyn Bridge Park. 

July 14, 2012 - Brooklyn Bridge Park.  (photo: Mark Laughlin via gothamist)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

No Mayoral Candidates Support MLS Stadium In FMC Park - But None Are Against It

The 2013 Mayoral Forum On Sustainability sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters was held last night  at Cooper Union's Great Hall in Manhattan.   (Photo: Courtesy: The League Of Conservation Voters)


By Geoffrey Croft

Attendees at last night's Mayoral Forum on Sustainability sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters could be excused for being a bit confused after hearing the candidates responses involving the building of a 35,000 seat soccer and concert stadium being planned for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. 

All nine candidates were asked by moderator Brian Lehrer, on Earth Day, about the  proposal for the park. 

Not a single candidate spoke up in favor of protecting the parkland.

They were asked for a show of hands of who supported the development of the stadium in the park.

"Is anyone solidly for the stadium,"  Mr. Leher asked.  The  audience clapped when none of them raised their hands. 

Mr. Lehrer then asked  a follow-up. 

"Is anyone solidly against  the stadium," he asked.   

The audience laughed and groaned when none of the mayoral candidates raised their hands.  

Brian Leher asked John Liu to speak about his ambivalence, a question that was met with laughter. 

Mr. Liu  spoke of broken promises made by the current administration in other replacement park deals in other stadium projects.

"There is a credibility factor here," he said.
"In the case of Major League Soccer stadium that's being proposed -  and I do believe the administration is pushing it behind the scenes -  I do believe overall it's not a good idea because they haven't  shown us exactly where they are going to restore the parkland. "

He went on to say that the city has to correct of the "huge difference" in parklands throughout the city in terms of maintenance inequities. 

Phil Konigsberg, said he was disappointed at the responses.

"I would have been good if all the candidates commented on that issue but they were tight-lipped," said Mr. Konigsberg, a member of Save Flushing Corona Park, who attended the forum.  "They all had an opportunity to come out and take the right position.  Liu was singled out (by Lehrer) but they all should have spoken out," he said. 

"I expected at least someone to get up and speak out against taking the park but none of them said anything. I was shocked. This was a sustainable forum after all. "

"Replacing the park is not an issue for the people fighting to stop these private corporations from taking the land," said Konigsberg. "The park should't be taken in the first place. That's the position the elected officials should be taking and protect it." 

(Photo: Courtesy: The League Of Conservation Voters)

The USTA does not care whether or not they write a check to buy a replacement parcel or put money into a fund.  The parks department owns the land and they are the ones controlling that issue.  

According to Danny Zausner,  USTA's Chief Operating Officer, the parks department has told the USTA they would rather have money.  

According to critics the replacement park issue is being used as cover for elected officials to vote yes on the project. 

The USTA expansion issue goes before City Planning tomorrow where it is expect to be rubber stamped by the Mayoral controlled committee. 

Although the USTA refuses to make the expansion proposal publicly available online despite repeated requests it is available for the first time here.

The Mayoral candidate forum on sustainability was held last night  at Cooper Union's Great Hall in Manhattan. 

Amoung the topics the candidates were questioned about their positions on were parks, waterfront development, traffic congestion, post-Sandy rebuilding.

The evening began with the candidates being asked whether or not they believed as a general principle that man made global warming is real and the city has a responsibly to consider carbon emissions in city policies.

Eight of the nine candidates raised their hands in agreement. One,  John Catsimatidis, president, chairman, and CEO of the Red Apple Group and Gristedes Foods had a different opinion.  

"I think the earth has exited for billions of years,"  Mr. Catsimatidis surmised.  "I'm concerned about global warming but we have to really , really have to study  it to see if it is the result of what we are doing." which was met with audience groans. 

On Sunday State Senator Tony Avella was joined by representatives from a number of civic organizations and park groups including,  Queens Civic Congress, Save Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Juniper Park Civic Association, West Cunningham Park Civic Association,  Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, Bay Terrace Community Alliance,  Auburndale Improvement Association NYC Park Advocates, and individual members from the surrounding communities who care about our parkland. The press conference was held to protest the proposed further expansion of the USTA Tennis Center into Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The New York City Planning Commission will hold a public hearing for this project, tomorrow, Wednesday,  April 24th at 10:00 am at 22 Reade Street in lower Manhatan.