Town Hall Focuses On Park Protest
By MEGAN MONTALVO
|On Oct. 1, more than 200 residents packed the Community Church in Jackson Heights to protest against proposed FMCP developments.
Tribune Photo by Megan Montalvo.
Following two recent town hall meetings, the Fairness Coalition of Queens organized an emergency meeting at the Community Church in Jackson Heights on Oct. 1 to voice their concerns about a string of proposed developments pending for Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
With more than 200 residents in attendance, park-goers made it clear that they are not in favor of any changes.
“Promises by developers for jobs have been proven time and time again to be worthless. Developers will say anything to get free land to build on,” said Georgia Southworth of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance.
According to the coalition, which is comprised of a group of nonprofit religious and community organizations, FMCP has been poorly funded for years with budgets far below Central Park or Prospect Park.
The group contests that the parkland is threatened by corporate interests who want the public asset for their own private gain at the expense of the largely working class, immigrant population of Queens.
“Billionaires want to put a shopping mall on parkland, and I can tell you from my own experience that promised jobs will be poorly paid, without benefits, and most likely part-time. Salaries for these jobs are so low that it’s impossible to raise a family with those wages,” said Maria Alvarez, a member of Make the Road.
In addition to protesting against the Willets Point development, which would construct a 1.4 million-square-foot entertainment venue partially on public parkland, residents in attendance also expressed concerns over proposals made by the United States Tennis Association and Major League Soccer, who are lobbying for alienation rights to add two new stadiums and concert venues on parkland.
If approved, the developments also plan to add several parking garages and new roads inside the park.
While Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-Elmhurst) and Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) were on hand to address the community, State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Elmhurst) and Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights), who were not in attendance, came under fire for their support of the proposed MLS soccer stadium.
“Tonight our elected officials in Jackson Heights heard the community speak loudly and clearly that giving our park away to corporations is not acceptable,” said Edwin Westley, president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group. “Flushing Meadows Corona Park needs to be fully funded. Not ignored and mismanaged.”
In response to meeting, Moya issued a statement defending his stance.
“The proposed Major League Soccer stadium has tremendous potential to provide positive recreational and economic benefits to our community that cannot be ignored, but it is still very much in the development process which I am happy to be a large part of,” Moya said. “It is far too early to come out against a project that has not had the opportunity to present publicly. I have been working hard and arranging meetings between community groups and Major League Soccer to discuss the proposal, and I feel confident that in the end, through open dialogue, that there will be compromise.”
Moving forward, residents expressed their plans to possibly seek landmark status for the park and demanded that Mayor Mike Bloomberg address their complaints.
“I want to hear Mayor Bloomberg talking about how he’ll increase funding and support for the park—not how he’ll give it away,” Westley said.
Reach Reporter Megan Montalvo at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 128 or mmontalvo@ queenstribune.com