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Know Your Rights
Source: Daily News
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Fear planned Queens stadiums will endanger parkland

Plans for two new tennis stadiums and a new soccer stadium in the largest park in Queens have sparked fears the projects could lead to a loss of coveted green space in the borough.

The Jackson Heights Green Alliance is holding an emergency town hall meeting on Monday to mobilize the community against the proposed stadiums in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park as well as a new mall at Citi Field.

“Park land is sacred,” said Alliance Board Member Donovan Finn. “That park is the backyard for a heavily immigrant, low- to moderate-income population.”

Park land used by private interests is required by law to be replaced at a new location. It also has to go through the city land review process and receive state legislative approval.

“Big pieces of park space are much more valuable than a bunch of little pieces of park land — which is what would replace it,” Finn said.

Finn said he is also concerned there will be no land swap for property used for new roads in the park to accommodate the stadiums — a claim that was dismissed by tennis and soccer officials.

U.S. Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier said only three-quarters of an acre would be lost in the tennis center’s expansion — and the land would come from a service road in the park.

The expansion would include replacing one stadium and building a new one.

“This minimal impact on the park will allow the U.S. Open to thrive and remain the economic engine that it currently is,” Widmaier said.

Major League Soccer officials previously said they were looking to build a 25,000-seat stadium on eight acres at the Fountains of Industry site in the park. That estimate later ballooned to up to 13 acres.

But officials insisted that they are committed to finding replacement park land.

“We are in the process of starting conversations with community leaders to identify parcels,” MLS spokeswoman Risa Heller said in a statement. “MLS is also committed to replacing and upgrading existing community soccer fields as well.”

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said the MLS stadium would be an economic boon to Queens.

“It is [proposed for] a space that’s really not being utilized to the best of its potential,” said Peralta, who added each project should be evaluated individually on the strength of its own merits.

Theo Oshiro [Deputy Director of Make the Road New York], spokesman for the Fairness Coalition of Queens, made up of several local groups concerned about the new projects at Flushing Meadows, said this is a low-income, minority area that doesn’t have park space to spare.

“These changes would impact the lives of the people that use the park every day,” he said. “Why hasn’t something like this been proposed for Central Park or Prospect Park?”

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