On the heels of its completion of the new Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, SHoP Architects may apply its design talents to another professional sports facility:Major League Soccer(MLS) has commissioned the local firm to draft designs for a 25,000-seat stadium, to serve an expansion teamthat itmay bring to Queens.
Located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the proposed stadium would be sited beside the 7 subway line on top of the existing Fountain of the Planets, a pool created for the 1963World’s Fair. The project is part of a larger development for the park that includes new facilities and parking structures for the United States Tennis Association (USTA) as well as a 1.4-millionsquare-foot shopping mall and a luxury hotel. None of what’s planned, however, will happen without a fight.
The reason is opposition from the population that uses Flushing MeadowsCorona Park. That green space, hemmed in by two highways, a polluted bay, and Citi Field Stadium, serves the densely-populated, immigrant-rich communities of Corona, Flushing, Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. Residents of these neighborhoods weekly flood the park by the tens of thousands to pursue various recreation activities or just take in some fresh air. Many have objected to the proposed stadium, saying it will crowd out their green oasis. “This is where my three-and-a-half-year-old son runs around the fountain,” Donovan Finn, a Jackson Heights resident and associate professor of environmental studies at Stony Brook University, told the New York Times. “This is our park.Why is it O.K. to do this to us?”
MLS claims the stadium—originally proposed for Pier 40 in Manhattan, only to be shot down by community activists there—will be good for both the city and the community. MLS Director Mark Abbott told Sporting News that the amount of green space required to build the stadiumwould be replaced “elsewhere.” The league also said that the new stadium would create between 2,100 and 2,300 construction-related jobs, 160 part-time jobs, and 750 full-time jobs.
Community members have also raised concerns that the new stadium’s parking lots will eat up more parkland. MLS says that the stadium would come with an additional 4,400 parking spaces (4,100 for fans and 300 for players and VIPs), though where this parking would be sited has yet to be determined. And while the Bloomberg administration claims that the stadium will open up another revenue stream for the city, community members doubt that the park will see any improvements as a result.
Local Queens community members are not the only ones resisting the project. The USTA could become the stadium’s most deep-pocketed opponent. “It raises a lot of concerns for us,” Gordon Smith, USTA’s director, told the Times. Smith singled out what he described as the new stadium’s noise pollution and its new surface parking, saying that both would have negative impacts on the environment, community, and USTA’s new facility. “We ought to be considered in a very different light, because we raise almost none of those complications,” Smith said. The USTA argues that while more than half of its fans use mass transit to travel to the U.S. Open, more people would drive to soccer games in a stadium built farther from
trains and subways. This scenario would require more roads and surface parking, and congestion close to the tennis center, Smith said.
SHoP and New York City’s Parks Department did not respond to requests for comment.