How Will Soccer Fans Get to Proposed MLS Stadium in Queens?

A proposed Major League Soccer stadium in the middle of Queens’ largest park might have some cheerleaders in Albany, but lots of questions must be answered before the first game can be played. Perhaps the biggest issue is the stadium’s transportation plan, the details of which — those that have been made public, at least — differ from what neighborhood advocates say MLS is telling them.

Parked cars sit in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park during the recent U.S. Open. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

On Monday, a coalition of groups known as the Queens Coalition for Fairness, including Make the Road New York and Queens Community House, hosted a meeting in Corona. Donovan Finn, an urban planning professor at Stony Brook University, explained to the crowd of hundreds why the current MLS proposal is a bad proposition.

“I’m not necessarily against the idea of a soccer stadium in this part of Queens,” Finn told Streetsblog. “But I do not think that the specific site MLS has chosen is the best choice.”

“I don’t think MLS has really thought the transportation issues through very much,” said Finn.

MLS is proposing a new, 25,000-seat stadium at the current site of the Fountain of Industry, more than a half-mile from the Mets-Willets Point subway station. That’s twice as far from the subway as the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and eight times farther than Citi Field.

The league says it will build an undisclosed number of parking spaces beneath the adjacent Van Wyck Expressway, but that none of the currently-estimated 13 acres of park land taken for the stadium would be used for parking.

Instead, MLS says that most attendees arriving by car are expected to use existing parking at Citi Field, an arrangement that’s likely subject to negotiation with Mets ownership. One potential problem Finn identified with this plan is double-booking Citi Field parking lots and overloading the 7 train, since soccer and baseball seasons occur at the same time of year.

Citi Field parking is up to three-quarters of a mile away from the proposed MLS site. The league says shuttle service to the subway or Citi Field parking lots is not currently part of its transportation plan, though community activists including Finn say MLS has told them otherwise.

The site, adjacent to the Van Wyck Expressway, is also near the Grand Central Parkway and the Long Island Expressway. Currently, that section of the park does not have direct highway access. MLS says the stadium will not require new access points or highway ramps. Finn is skeptical. “I am wholly unconvinced by MLS’s argument that the stadium will require no new road construction,” he said. Finn wonders, for instance, how trucks will make deliveries to the stadium using the park’s perimeter access drives, which encircle but do not reach the stadium site.

The proposed stadium, more than a half-mile from the subway, is one of many proposed changes for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Map: ##http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444426404577647743259180070.html?mod=googlenews_wsj##Wall Street Journal##

In July, State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky told Newsday she was concerned that there wasn’t “going to be enough parking” at the MLS site. Other elected officials have a wide variety of positions on the MLS proposal. Assemblyman Francisco Moya has been one of the project’s biggest supporters, while Council Member Daniel Dromm was outspoken in his skepticism at the Queens Coalition for Fairness meeting this week. Council Member Julissa Ferreras, whose district includes the stadium site, has taken a more circumspect tone, arguing that while she does not oppose the MLS proposal, it must meet community needs.

Transportation isn’t the only unresolved issue.

State law requires that any park land lost to the stadium be made up with an equal amount of new park land, though nearby residents may end up effectively suffering a net loss of green space since there are few 13-acre sites available in adjacent areas.

In addition, MLS has offered to replace public soccer fields that currently sit on the stadium site. Local soccer leagues currently receive permits from the Parks Department to use existing fields. Future management of the fields after construction by MLS is an open question.

The stadium is one among several projects that have park users wary. Other speakers at Monday’s Queens Coalition for Fairness meeting voiced concerns about proposals including the expansion of the National Tennis Center, a new retail development at Citi Field and a casino.

  • A half-mile from a subway stop does not seem like such a terrible thing, especially if you compare it with the Chicago Fire’s stadium – 4 1/2 miles from the nearest train station and a mile from the nearest bus stop.

  • I don’t see the insurmountable issue with moving people from the train station to the stadium, and vice versa.  Disney does it every 20 minutes without a hiccup. A small stadium such as what we’re discussing would not require such a significant effort.  I like the idea of a contactless OLEV to resolve emissions concerns.  It could travel along the park’s perimeter road, and could be expanded for use during the tennis open in the new grandstand stadium.  The park is pretty narrow and long, so the idea opens up the park to more people.  There could be a ‘loop’, running from the train station to the Hall of Science to Queens Zoo to Meadow Lake.  (Past that probably wouldn’t be efficient.)

    Down the line, because it requires an underground electric cable on a predetermined route, the possibility of driverless operation exists. Heck, slap on an ATT wifi hotspot for fun. 🙂

    7 train capacity is worthy of concern, but that should encourage efforts to complete the 7 train modification a la the L train.

    Something probably too expensive for but interesting might be something like a toned-down version of the Morgantown PRT.

  • Joe R.

    Seriously, is walking a 1/2 mile the few times in the summer when you might go to a soccer game that burdensome? I personally always walk whenever I’m going 2 miles each way or less. Not worth it to wait for a bus, or take out my bike, to go such a short distance.

  • Miles Bader

    Seriously, is walking a 1/2 mile the few times in the summer when you might go to a soccer game that burdensome?

    It’s over the 500m distance, which one often hears as the “distance people will walk”, but I suppose it depends partly on what the walk is like.  How many
    life-threatening intersections does one have to cross?  Are the
    intervening streets pleasant and interesting boulevards with shopping and wide sidewalks, or dangerous and soul-sapping stroads where one chokes on fumes the entire way while walking 50cm away from speeding semis?

  • Elderly people might prefer not to walk.  It’s more like 0.7 miles.  

  • Miles Bader

    [ I’d fix the typos in my post, but oh wait, streetsblog has disabled editing! ]

  • Anonymous

    @google-9ed3368a6439fa92efd353af4436290d:disqus : let me tell you a well-kept secret about disqus. If you go to your disqus dashboard (http://disqus.com/dashboard/), you’ll find all your posts, and you can edit them from there! There’s a little pencil icon that appears when you hover your pointer over a post.

  • Joe R.

    Well, for what it’s worth, most of the walk would be in the park where it would most likely be pleasant (except on the hottest days). Maybe a pedestrian bridge over Roosevelt Avenue wouldn’t be a bad idea, either, as it would ensure none of the walk involves crossing streets.

    If we’re going to build any sort of motorized transport here, then it should only be built as part of a larger system which serves the entire park. I’d love to see a monorail running around the perimeter of the entire park, perhaps with branches to key attractions.

  • kevd

    1/2 mile? Thats closer than the PATH is to Red Bull Arena.
    10 minutes.
    Oh, 0.7 miles? 14 minutes.

  • One potential problem Finn identified with this plan is double-booking Citi Field parking lots and overloading the 7 train

    Once the MTA completes installation of the Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) signal system on the 7 line, they’ll be able to run more trains on the line, which should help balance out the potential additional ridership from the proposed MLS and USTA stadiums.

  • Anonymous

    @kevdflb:disqus Red Bull Arena is a 1/3 mile walk from the Harrison PATH.

  • kevd

    Oh Yeah!

    I’m showing .4 miles, but yes, that is less than .5!

  • Looking at the map, I wonder if it would be better to run shuttle services from Flushing-Main Street and the Woodhaven Boullevard subway stations, given that it’s closer to where the LIE and Van Wyck intersect.

  • Ksichler

    I regularly walk 1 mile to and from Red Bull Arena with plenty of other fans walking with me (most of the bars are on Market Street or Ferry Street in Newark). 0.5 miles seems like nothing.  I am not sure what the complaint is about there. We americans could use a little more exercise.    

  • Guest

    Good grief. It’s a longer walk THROUGH the parking lot of the Meadowlands/Giants Stadium than it is from the 7 to the proposed site. Give this one a rest. 

  • Guest

    @qrt145:disqus actually – pedestrians using transit need cross no streets – it’s just like walking to the Tennis Center, except a little further. 

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