COALITION: HANDS OFF FLUSHING MEADOWS
Decry Mall At Corona Town Hall
Community residents packed a public hearing in Corona on Thursday, Sept. 27 to express outrage about a rumored proposal for a shopping mall in the Flushing Meadows- Corona Park area, with some groups calling it an “unprecedented land grab.”
According to the Fairness Coalition of Queens, a group comprising local civic organizations and youth soccer groups, the Wilpon family— owners of Sterling Equities and the New York Mets—is proposing to use parkland located west of Citi Field to build a 1.4 million sq. ft. shopping mall. The site includes part of the Citi Field parking lot and the former location of Shea Stadium.
The group alleges that the city is attempting to circumvent the standard land use review process by claiming that this project was approved as part of the Willets Point rezoning in 2008.
“The city and the Wilpons are attempting a bait and switch. Every single aspect of the proposal has changed since it was approved in 2008—the location, the size, the type of building, everything. The city has never done a full review of the impact of a 1.4 million square foot mall on the community and the park,” said Dr. Donovan Finn, a professor of environmental planning and policy at SUNY Stony Brook and a Queens resident. “The size of this development has almost doubled and now includes the construction of the largest mall in New York City. We can’t rush into something that will have major impacts and could permanently damage our community. This is an obvious attempt to minimize public input.”
The coalition cited the different economic conditions today as opposed to 2008, the opening of Citi Field to replace Shea Stadium, the opening of the Sky View Mall in 2010, and Major League Soccer’s interest in a stadium at Flushing Meadows Corona Park (which was previously covered by the Times Newsweekly).
“The community needs affordable housing. Not a mall. The provision of housing, especially affordable housing, was a key element of the 2008 plan. Affordable housing was presented at the time as the justification for the extreme action of taking of private property and for the displacement of businesses and workers,” said Anna Dioguardi Moyano, the director of community organizing and development at Queens Community House, a member of the coalition. “The new plan would not deliver any housing until 2028. That is unacceptable. Affordable housing should be the priority.”
According to the coalition, major concerns voiced at the meeting included the impact on small businesses, increased traffic and air pollution, loss of public space, broken promises on affordable housing and lack of community involvement.
“Mayor Bloomberg wants to put a shopping mall in Willets Point, on park land, and I can tell you from my own experience that those jobs will be poorly paid, without benefits, and most likely part-time,” Maria Alvarez, member of Make the Road New York (another coalition member) and a resident of Corona. “I worked in JCPenney in the Queens Center Mall for 20 years. The majority of workers at the Queens Center Mall make the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Most of them work part-time and have to have two or three jobs to survive. We don’t need more of the same.”
The mall is just one of three proposals for taking parkland in Flushing Meadows Corona Park to give to private corporations, it was noted.