Editorial: Flushing Meadows-Carona Park needs private stewards, too
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, one of the city's most celebrated civic expanses, has seen better days. Lawns are frayed. Athletic equipment is rusted. Fountains stand dry.
The most heavily used greensward in the city's largest borough, it deserves a better fate.
The park was reclaimed from the 1920s dump that F. Scott Fitzgerald described in "The Great Gatsby" as a "fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills." It hosted two New York World's Fairs -- in 1939 and 1964. And today its 1,255 acres lie in the heart of immigrant-rich northern Queens. But it urgently needs a makeover that City Hall alone can't provide.
One plan for the park, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg backs, includes a bid by Major League Soccer to build a 25,000-seat stadium while in return providing an array of public amenities. But the idea could face real hurdles.
It would require City Council approval, for one thing. And it comes as neighborhood opposition to the deal builds, for another.
It's hard to say what kind of proposal will emerge when the dust settles. It's even harder to guess what kind of benefit the proposal might in truth deliver to the public.
East Elmhurst City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras may have the best idea. She's talking with city officials about the creation of a public-private partnership that would solicit donations from community stakeholders -- local businesses and residents, for example -- to help with the maintenance and preservation of this crown jewel.
Success isn't a given. The fundraising would have to be effective. And formation of a nonprofit partnership wouldn't necessarily preclude an agreement to build a large soccer stadium. Savvy management and a clear and realistic vision are crucial. But at best, a strong partnership would protect Queens residents as the debate about use of this public asset plays out. At the moment, the people who use the park the most lack a voice.
Central Park has its conservancy. Prospect Park has its alliance. Flushing Meadows-Corona needs its own guardians.