Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) and Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, FAICP on Monday announced the official launch of the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance, billed as a new independent, non-profit organization that will support and promote the upkeep and enhancement of the 900-acre borough park that is home to the United States Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and Arthur Ashe Stadium; Citi Field; the Queens Zoo; the New York Hall of Science; and the Queens Museum, among other attractions.
According to de Blasio, the Alliance’s Board of Directors is comprised of government, community and business leaders, including: Carol Conslato, director Public Affairs, Con Edison; Raul Garcia, associate general counsel, 32BJ; Jim Haddad, proprietor, Law Office of James M. Haddad; Andrea Hirsch, chief administrative officer and general counsel, USTA; Patty Ornst, managing director, New York State and Local Government Affairs, Delta Air Lines; Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make The Road New York; Edwin Wong, vice president, senior relationship manager, HSBC Commercial Banking; Danny Zausner, chief operating officer, National Tennis Center.
The board also includes five ex-officio members: First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, FAICP, Acting Cultural Affairs Commissioner Edwin Torres, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
Additionally, the Alliance will also be served by an independent Community Advisory Board comprised of community members that reflect the “diverse Queens community.” Nominations for CAB membership will begin in December with an open informational session. Flushing Meadows Corona Park Administrator Janice Melnick will serve as executive director of the Alliance. Upon their first meeting, a CAB member will hold a seat on the Alliance’s Board of Directors.
“The Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance will provide our park with a community-driven organization to direct strategic planning, effective maintenance and public input,” Ferreras-Copeland said. “I am honored to announce this historic, new public-private partnership to be a steward for the park, a platform for community engagement, and a vehicle for investment in Queens’ iconic park and our most cherished green space.”
Initial funding for the Alliance, according to the administration, is supported by the USTA, which will contribute $350,000 for the Alliance’s first three years and $200,000 for the following 20 years.
However, it seems that some stakeholders will not be counted among the allies of the Alliance.
“This deal is a sham,” said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates. “This entire Alliance initiative and model is based on businesses commercially exploiting Flushing Meadows Corona Park, including taking parkland away from the public. Instead of the city properly investing in the park, as they are legally required to do, the administration is championing this plan in exchange for money. They should be ashamed of themselves. This is certainly not ‘progressive.’
Councilman Rory Lancman’s (D-Hillcrest) 24th District includes part of the park. Lancman wondered aloud on Monday why he hadn’t even been consulted on the Alliance, claiming that the structure of its Board of Directors was “negotiated in secret for over a year,” and that it “disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of park users.”
“We deserve representation, and a say in how resources are allocated in our park,” Lancman said. “Public appointments, public resources and public parks aren’t plums to be awarded to political allies.”
By Michael V. Cusenza firstname.lastname@example.org