Protestors March Against Park Proposals
By MEGAN MONTALVO
A group of more than 100 protestors marched to Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Dec. 9. Photo by Megan Montalvo.
They rallied. They shouted. They drummed. They even sent in a clown.
On Dec. 9, more than 100 local residents marched through Flushing Meadows Corona Park to express outrage against three pending construction developments.
“We are here today because we want to make sure our voices are heard,” said Susan Lippman, a 40-year Jackson Heights resident. “This is a land grab orchestrated by Bloomberg and his friends. Flushing Meadows Corona Park is our park. We do not want any private development on public parkland.”
Beginning at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Corona, the crowd of neighbors gathered as Msgr. Thomas Healy joined State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-Elmhurst) to denounce three separate proposals that call for a one-acre expansion of the existing USTA campus and construction of a 1.4 million square foot mall and 25,000 seat soccer stadium.
“I think this sign says a lot,” Avella said as he held up a sign that read ‘Put Soccer Stadium in Central Park.’ “If [Major League Soccer] wanted to put a stadium in Central Park, do you think it would happen? You need to have a voice in what happens in the park. I’m here to make sure that happens.”
As an outpouring of cheers lauded Avella’s speech, the protestors initiated a march that spanned more than two and half miles, passing CitiField, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and the Unisphere along the way.
Though the concerns ranged from the impact on small businesses and increased traffic and air pollution to the need for good quality jobs, loss of public space and “broken promises on affordable housing,” one unified message became undeniably clear: “Our park is not for sale.”
Chants were shouted in both English and Spanish as the group ultimately ended their rally at the Fountain of Planets – the site of the proposed MLS stadium.
“I play soccer in the park,” Elmhurst resident Luis Gonzalez said as he stood on a bench overlooking the fountain. “Our community loves soccer. But that doesn’t mean we want a soccer stadium right in the middle of the park. The kids in our community desperately need open space to exercise. Childhood obesity is a major problem. Where are our kids supposed to play?”
While the Fairness Coalition of Queens has held several town halls, many members asserted that they felt their voices were falling on deaf ears.
“We have made several attempts to hold town forums where everyone was invited to ask questions and add their input,” Julissa Bisono of Make The Road New York said. “Although we have said time and again that we do not want these proposals in our park, it just seems like everything is moving forward without any of our concerns being taken into account. We deserve a voice.”
In response to the march, MLS Spokeswoman Risa Heller stressed that the league has the community’s backing.
“We have a tremendous amount of community support from small businesses to civic groups, local soccer leagues and labor,” Heller said in an email. “We will continue to engage with the community and look forward to hearing more from them.”
In a final cry of opposition, the group delivered a set of petitions to Mayor Mike Bloomberg on Dec. 12.
As they await a response, Anna Dioguardi of Queens Community House summed up what the Coalition wants most - a halt to the development.
“The very nature of the park will be altered by introducing additional stadiums and a mall nearby,” she said. “How are local families expected to continue to enjoy their park when thousands of disruptive fans and increased garbage arrive in the park? How is this fair?”
Reach Reporter Megan Montalvo at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 128 or email@example.com.