Opponents began a protest march on the steps of Our Lady of Sorrow’s Parish in Corona on Sunday, December 9.
MLS has proposed building a 25,000-seat stadium on top of the Fountain of Planets that would open in 2016, but some community members don’t want the new stadium.
On Sunday, community members marched from Our Lady of Sorrows Parish through Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to protest the plan. The march ended with a cleanup to highlight the need for adequate funding of park maintenance and capital improvements, according to the organizers of the march, Fairness Coalition of Queens.
Marchers held signs in Spanish and English, with one sign suggesting that the stadium be built in Central Park.
“We love you mayor, but stay off our grass,” said Our Lady of Sorrows Monsignor Thomas Healy, saying that the local community needs the park for their families to use.
“There is too much going on behind the scenes with this project to let it go ahead at this point,” added State Senator Tony Avella. “The most important thing is that this community has to have a say in what happens.”
Avella referenced a town hall meeting hosted by MLS earlier in the week, during which opponents of the stadium argued their voices weren’t allowed to be heard.
When asked about the job creation - MLS states it will create over 2,000 construction, 150 full-time and 700 part-time jobs - Avella said that he fears the community won’t receive those new jobs.
“I always get that promise with these mega-projects about jobs, and yet when they do happen they don’t benefit the people who really need them,” he said.
“Having a soccer stadium is a good idea,” Avella said, but “where it goes is important and making sure that the people that are going to be most affected by it have a real say.”
Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras criticized MLS for not being open enough with the public.
“We cannot make any deals behind close doors,” she said.
“There has been very little opportunity for a question-and-answer community discussion,” said marcher Dennis Redmond, a 14-year resident of Sunnyside. “I don’t agree with the taking away of park space - what I think is limited park space - for the population of Queens.”
MLS has stated that it will replace all of the parkland that the proposed stadium would eliminate, but at this time it has not been determined where or when the parkland will be replaced.
When told that MLS will also seek to fix the public soccer fields and make improvements to the park along with the new stadium, Redmond said he is skeptical of the entire process
“MLS’s interest isn’t necessarily helping the park,” he said. “MLS’s interest is helping MLS.”