Support Builds for Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Flushing Meadows Corona Park (FMCP) is more in the public spotlight now than perhaps any time since the 1964 World’s Fair, thanks to several development projects proposed for the park. An expansion of the existing National Tennis Center, a mall on the Citi Field parking lot, and a Major League Soccer stadium are all being considered for mapped parkland within FMCP’s boundaries.

As the first two of these projects wind their way through the public review process, a productive discussion about the park’s future has begun. That discussion – and a spirit of community optimism amidst the clamor of public debate about the proposals – heightened last Monday at a standing-room-only visioning session hosted by the Fairness Coalition of Queens – a diverse group of well-respected nonprofits working to protect and improve the park – and the Pratt Graduate Center for Planning.

The more than 100 attendees heard a presentation by Council Member Julissa Ferreras about an idea for the park that NY4P strongly supports: the creation of an alliance, based on other public-private partnerships the City has entered, to operate and maintain the entire park and help transform it from an under-staffed, poorly maintained public space into the gem that Queens deserves.

The concept mirrors that of nonprofit organizations that have helped lift parks across the city, including the Prospect Park Alliance in Brooklyn and the Bronx River Alliance. These organizations are hybrids, reporting both to the Parks Department and a nonprofit board of directors that helps fundraise for the park and monitors its finances. The proposed structure for FMCP would also include a Community Operations Council that would advise the alliance on day-to-day park needs, though the Parks Department would retain final approval over all capital projects, programs, events and budgets.

The benefits of such an organization are many: 

·    A nonprofit alliance can fundraise and solicit new revenue sources to augment the park’s  limited  budget.
·    By raising extra funds for the park, an alliance can hire additional staff to supplement the 18 full-time and 35 summer Parks Department employees dedicated to FMCP, ensuring better maintenance. (By comparison, Central Park has 300 workers, and Prospect Park has 135, though both parks are smaller than FMCP.)
·    An alliance would work closely with the community and park-users to develop and implement a long-term plan for the park’s ongoing stewardship and improvement.
·    A nonprofit organization has stringent reporting requirements and an independent board with financial oversight responsibility, which promotes greater transparency in how park funding is used.

Starting such an organization is critical for the park’s future regardless of whether any of the proposed projects actually happen. Already the United States Tennis Association and the Mets are tenants profiting from their facilities in FMCP, yet they don’t have an obligation to give a dime back to the park. An alliance creates the framework for this inequitable dynamic to shift once and for all.

The Parks Department’s maintenance budget has been shrinking for years, and NY4P continues to advocate annually for budget restorations. It’s clear, however, that public money alone is not going to make FMCP the premier park it should be. The time has come for a public-private partnership that will help provide additional resources to this underserved park, and ensure better maintenance and sharper oversight of park funding for generations to come.

We wholeheartedly endorse Council Member Ferreras’ vision for FMCP’s future, and Monday night made clear that many others who know the park and surrounding neighborhoods best do, too.

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