Sunday, August 19, 2012

Gambling on Soccer over Parks

The Queens Chronicle editorializes this week about the proposal to put a soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-and at the same time advises that a casino at Willets Point is a non-starter:

"This week two separate proposals to make northern Queens a bigger entertainment destination than it already is with Citi Field and the U.S. Tennis Center made news. We think one would be a great addition to the area, and the other, not so much. The first is a plan to build a Major League Soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows Park where the Fountain of the Planets, a remnant of the 1964-65 World’s Fair, is now. It’ll be tough to see yet another relic of Queens’ past disappear, but the stadium would draw thousands of people to games, providing more wholesome family entertainment here in the borough and boosting the economy."

As far as the casino is concerned:

"Not worth pursuing is another possible plan for northern Queens that made the news this week, a casino at Willets Point. There’s enough planned for Willets Point already, and there’s no need for a second gambling mecca in Queens. If the state legalizes Vegas-style gaming, as it seems inclined to do, Resorts World Casino New York, the popular new racino at Aqueduct Race Track, is the right location for it. Luckily, the Willets Point casino is not a serious plan that’s moving forward, like the soccer stadium, but simply a trial balloon that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver floated. We say stick a pin in it. Mayor Bloomberg and Seth Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corp., seem to agree. In this instance, we’ll place our bets with them."

Keep in mind also that the soccer stadium is on parkland and if it is alienated for that use other space must replace it: "That said, the stadium cannot be built overnight. Since it would be erected in a park, an equal amount of land elsewhere, nine acres, would have to be set aside as parkland. It also would require approvals from a number of city and state agencies."

What about parking? "And the plan, at least what’s known of it at this point, could use some tweaking. It calls, for example, for patrons to park at Citi Field, but that’s quite a distance away from where the stadium would be built. Still, it’s a plan worth pursuing, with benefits that outweigh the costs."

How does the Chronicle know that benefits outweigh costs? What about the traffic and how will all of this mesh with the city's ludicrous idea to put a mall on the current Citifield parking lot-moving parking over to the area in Willets Point on the east side of the stadium?

In our view this is the kind of ad hoc planning that smacks of desperation. Having their original ideal for Willets Point relegated to the scrap heap, city planners are now flailing around like the proverbial headless chickens.

It's time to send Mr. Pinsky over the Burger King where the limits of his economic expertise can be honed at the cash register-and a new administration should be tasked with planning for Willets Point and the surrounding areas. Someone needs to examine the current infrastructure and determine whether all of this grandiosity can be supported by the existing roads and mass transit.

One last piece of advice. The city needs to find an independent environmental consulting firm. The last thing it needs is for the fraudulent folks at AKRF to dummy up another set of traffic studies-and park resources need to be enhanced and not diminished, they are a community treasure in this part of Queens.