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Source: New York Daily News
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Three unions back MLS soccer stadium project for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park

A trio of unions is throwing their weight behind a contentious proposal to construct a soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the Daily News has learned.

The endorsement, expected to be announced Thursday, marks the first organized labor support for the plan.

“We believe a Major League Soccer stadium will help create jobs in Queens,” said Héctor Figueroa, president of 32 BJ Service Employees International Union. “We are confident the stadium will be built union and maintained union.”

The New York Hotel & Motel Workers’ Union and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York are also backing the plan, which would place a 25,000-seat stadium at the edge of the park near the Whitestone Expressway.

It would occupy the space where the former Fountain of the Planets, a World’s Fair relic, currently sits.

Some lawmakers and soccer lovers have embraced the proposal while others question the wisdom of gobbling up precious green space in a park that already houses Citi Field and the U.S. Tennis Association’s National Tennis Center.

Figueroa said the unions are in talking with Major League Soccer to help hammer out a plan that is more palatable to the community.

“I think we will be able to reach a place where this development will meet the needs of the community and preserve the park as a place that serves our neighborhoods,” he told The News on Wednesday.

Major League Soccer and city officials are in discussions over the proposal to construct a stadium on up to 13 acres in the park.

“Good jobs and decent paying jobs are not mutually exclusive with saving the park,” said Hilary Klein [lead organizer of Make the Road New York] of the Fairness Coalition of Queens, which opposes placement of the stadium in the park. “We think there are very viable alternatives.”

Klein said she was skeptical of claims that many of the stadium jobs would go to local residents. She pointed to similar claims made when the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

“People are desperate for economic development,” Klein said. “But these promises are not always coming into fruition.”

The three unions represent more than 200,000 workers. Leaders said the stadium project will create 2,100 construction jobs, 160 full-time jobs and 75 part-time jobs.

“They understand, as we do, what an important economic engine this stadium will be,” said Risa Heller, a spokeswoman for Major League Soccer. “We look forward to working with them to make it a reality.”

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