Recently the United States Tennis Association asked for expansion of their facility, Major League Soccer proposed building a stadium in the park, and a 1.4 million-square-foot mall is being proposed for the parking lot at Citi Field.
The Landmarks and Preservation Commission (LPC) denied a request to hold a public hearing on landmarking the 1,255-acre park landmarked status.
“We determined that the park does not rise to the level of a scenic landmark because its design lacks cohesiveness and it’s been changed over time,” said Elisabeth de Bourbon of the LPC. “In addition, the park is not considered an important example of its designer, the landscape architect and engineer Gilmore D. Clarke.”
But Avella argues that the park is the most prominent park in the borough, and has played host to historical events such as two World Fairs and was once home to the United Nations.
“This park is under threat of commercial development,” said Avella. “It is imperative that the LPC reverse their decision.”
At a protest last week in front of the Unisphere, which is an individual landmark in the park, Avella explained that with the proposed development approximately half of the parkland would be utilized for commercial use.
“Prospect Park in Brooklyn, which is the borough park for Brooklyn, is a New York City landmark,” he said. “Central Park, which is not only the borough park for Manhattan but for the entire city, is a New York City landmark. You mean to tell me that Queens doesn’t deserve the same recognition?”
Avella is calling for a public hearing on landmarking, where he and other park advocates could give testimony explaining their position.
In order for a public hearing to take place, LPC staff must recommend to the commission that the park be considered for landmarking. Only the full commission can vote to hold a public hearing on granting landmark status.
“If more evidence about the park’s architectural and historic significance comes to light, we will carefully evaluate that information,” de Bourbon said.
“We have the fewest number of designations in the city, we are constantly fighting to get anything designated here,” said Paul Graziano, co-founder of Save Flushing Meadows Corona Park and a candidate for City Council. “This park has been abused left and right and it has essentially been a dumping ground for special projects.”
Graziano said that it is less about getting respect and more about protecting the heritage of the borough.
“This is extremely important to the city as well as the entire country, particularly with the connection to the United Nations,” he said.