By Councilman Rory Lancman
This week Mayor Bill de Blasio finally announced the creation of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (FMCP) Alliance, after over a year of secret deliberations. The Alliance was created as a vehicle to raise and spend private funds in FMCP. This is crucial for FMCP, which needs the type of public-private partnerships that have benefited and revitalized Central Park and Prospect Park, other crown jewels of our parks system. The Alliance was created specifically to distribute the funds donated by the United States Tennis Association, but is expected to raise money beyond this contribution from other donors.
The Council Member representing the northern half of the park, including the Queens Museum, the National Tennis Center and the Unisphere, will have an appointee on FMCP Alliance board of directors; not so for the Council Member representing the southern half of the park, including Meadow and Willow Lakes, two boathouses, playgrounds, basketball courts, baseball fields and several trails. This decision means that the concerns of lake users, softball and baseball players, fishers, barbecuers, cricket players and hundreds of thousands of others won’t be fairly represented when the Alliance determines which projects to prioritize and which areas of the park to invest in.
Our parks are a vital public resource, and Mayor de Blasio pledged a new vision for how our parks are funded, maintained and developed — an end to “the tale of two park systems” that showered favored parks like Central Park and Prospect Park with attention, while Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was all but ignored.
We’ve seen this two-tier parks system at work even within Flushing Meadows-Corona Park itself. The northern half, with its cultural institutions and iconic structures (the Unisphere, the World’s Fair Pavilion), has always attracted a far greater share of city government attention than the more purely ecological and recreational southern half, to the detriment of communities abutting Meadow and Willow Lakes. Mayor de Blasio’s latest scheme further institutionalizes this inequity.
Decisions on how to spend money in public parks must include all of the communities that use the park. A board that leaves the interests of the hundreds of thousands of people who use the southern half of the park unrepresented is an unrepresentative board. Projects in the Meadow and Willows Lakes area that are the kind the Alliance could help fund – playground renovations, persistent flooding in some areas, better maintenance of the lake areas – will get lost in the shuffle.
All of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, not just the northern half, must be treated as a genuine jewel of our park system. The Meadow and Willow Lake areas need investment and attention just as much as the areas around the Unisphere and Queens Museum.
Rory Lancman is the New York City Councilman from the 24th District, which includes Electchester/Pomonok, Briarwood, Kew Gardens Hills, Hillcrest, Utopia and parts of Flushing, Fresh Meadows, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills and Downtown Jamaica.