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

Locals blast Bloomberg on Flushing park plans

It won’t be one of the topics of discussion tonight at the Obama-Romney presidential debate, but for Queens residents the city’s plans for Flushing Meadows—Corona Park are of crucial importance for the future of their community.

That’s why two weeks ago 500 Queens residents attended a Town Hall-style meeting at a Corona church to discuss such plans and to tell Mayor Bloomberg that the community is not going to sit idly by while their park is sold to real estate moguls and greedy merchants.

And that’s why on Monday night 250 angry residents of Jackson Heights, Corona, and East Elmhurst came together for another emergency town hall meeting, this time at a Jackson Heights church, to forcefully convey the same message: Queens residents are united against the giveaway of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park land.

The meeting’s purpose was to “raise awareness about the projects, the threat to precious Queens parkland and its impact to the Jackson Heights community and nearby neighborhoods of traffic, pollution, overcrowded mass transit, sanitation, flooding, and threat to small businesses and property values,” according to a statement from the Fairness Coalition of Queens which organized the event.

The coalition, which was one of the main forces behind the Corona meeting two weeks ago, is composed of a diverse group of labor, immigrant, cultural and community organizations. Included among the groups are the Asian Americans For Equality, Eastern New York State Soccer Association, Jackson Heights Green Alliance, Jackson Heights Beautification Group, Make the Road New York, New Immigrant Community Empowerment, Queens Community House and Queens Congregations United for Action.

“Community input regarding all uses and proposed redesigns of (the park) must be included before any development project moves forward,” the statement said, echoing the resident’s anger at what they believe is an attempt to ignore their concerns and push down their throat a project which is not what they want or need.

“We are trying to get a meeting with the mayor’s office about the community’s concern,” said Joseph McKellar, executive director of the Queens Congregations United for Action.

In a June 13 press conference, Bloomberg and the New York Economic Development Corporation announced a revised plan for Willets Point. The previous one, which had been approved in 2008 after extensive pubic review, was no longer valid. The new developments, backed by a partnership of Related Cos. and Sterling Equities, were decided with little or no community input.

The city, the coalition said, is considering three development projects to be built on parkland: a 1,400,000-square foot mall, two new stadiums and concert venues, 9,000 additional parking spots including several new parking garages and new roads. The plan requires years of construction and dozens of acres of parkland would be lost to private corporations.

The community’s concern should not come as a surprise. After all Flushing Meadows—Corona Park is the biggest green space in Queens and for 72 years it has been used by millions of families from across the borough. The surrounding neighborhoods depend on the park as some of the only open space in Queens. Residents are some of the poorest in the city: 75% are people of color and 40% live in poverty.

“We want to make clear that the community is not against development and the creation of jobs,” McKellar said. “What we want to see is responsible development and good jobs.”

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