Nearly two weeks after Major League Soccer touted the support of more than 1,000 small businesses for their proposed 25,000-seat stadium, opponents of the plans are coming forward with a list of their own.
On Feb. 4, the Fairness Coalition of Queens announced that the number of small business owners speaking out against three proposed developments at Flushing Meadows Corona Park is growing by the hundreds.
“Smart business owners here get it,” said Javier H. Valdés, who is a Coalition member and co-executive director of Make the Road New York. “Loss of parkland not only depresses property values, but it really hurts local businesses. That’s why New York is increasing parkland and open space across the city. This new proposal lacks clarity and business support.”
In addition to their outcry against the MLS stadium, Coalition members also say that they are concerned over the 0.68-acre USTA expansion in the park as well as the creation of a 1.4 million-square-foot retail/entertainment mall as part of the Willets Point development.
“The promise of jobs and business is a distraction from the reality: this development will damage small business and their employees in Queens,” said Julio Pefantes, owner of Alexis Fine Jewelry on Roosevelt Avenue. “I have been here working and building my business for 12 years, 7 days a week. The truth is the development of Flushing Meadows Corona Park will drive out the small businesses.”
Adding to the stress of the embattled conversation over the park proposals this week was a debacle over a supposed creation of a Willets Point casino, which was sparked by a New York Post article, wherein the writer had speculated the inclusion of a casino as part of a “secret” Willets Point ploy.
While the initial 2011 proposal had included a casino, the Queens Development Group, which is the joint venture between Sterling and Related Companies selected by the City to redevelop Willets Point, released a statement firmly denying that a casino will be built.
“An initial concept submitted two years ago floated the possibility of Indian gaming and was dismissed by the City. Our plans for Willets Point DO NOT include an Indian or commercial casino, which is illegal,” the statement read. “The $3 billion investment we are making in Willets Point will clean up land that has experienced a century of environmental contamination and will result in a mixed-use community that will create thousands of jobs, affordable housing and significant economic activity for the area.”
Despite the casino confusion, the Fairness Coalition remains strong on their stance against each proposal, including Willets Point. “My reason for opposing these developments is clear: we need a park here,” said Iona Masheyova, owner of Shrier Eye Care Center on 37th Avenue. “What we need to focus on is the commercial space that already exists and is empty, not to build more. Why build another mall while there are so many small businesses, already contributing to the community, that are struggling?”
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