Dec. 14, 2015 By Laura A. Shepard
With several organizations requesting the ability to rent areas of Flushing Meadows Corona Park for paid-admission concerts, local residents fear that they will lose access to their community parkland.
“It’s not good news for us,” Community Board 4 chair Louis Walker said. CB 4 represents Corona, Corona Heights and Elmhurst.
There are three proposals by established for-profit music festival organizers, who are all vying to use the space.
The first is from AEG Live, the producers of California’s Coachella music festival, which attracted 200,000 people this year. AEG Live wants to host a festival in June called “Panorama,” an homage to the detailed scale-model of New York City housed in the Queens Museum.
Meanwhile, Founders Entertainment, the organizers behind the Governor’s Ball music festival on Randall’s Island – also in June – argued that Panorama would detract from their event. Therefore, they launched their own bid for an event in FMCP, which would take place in September.
The Madison Square Garden Company has also applied for permits to host a music festival with 75,000 attendees per day from June 24 to 26, featuring “a world-class lineup of music talent, a wide array of interactive activities and experiences, a free Queens community celebration and investments in the park and Queens community,” according to its website. The free celebration would take place ahead of the paid-entrance festival, on June 18.
Allowing the concerts would set a dangerous precedent, Walker explained, “because once you let one person do it, how can you tell the others they can’t do it?”
“I would think that this is parkland with open access, free for the people of New York to use,” board member Judy D’Andrea said, noting that she has attended free concerts and events in Central Park.
“If you start renting it out, we’ve lost our park,” D’Andrea added.
The community board members unanimously voted to write a letter to the City Council stating their opposition to the concerts.
“We have to have a voice in this situation. They have no right,” board member Clara Salas agreed.
James Lisa suggested that the City Council suffers from a lack of institutional memory and they don’t understand what happened after the World’s Fair ended in 1965.
He remembered Robert Moses’ promise to return the park to the people of New York City, after the fairgrounds were dismantled and the land was designated Parks property. Therefore, Lisa argued, subsequent development at the parkland including Citi Field and the USTA stadiums should not have happened, and citing the World’s Fair as precedent for these types of events would be disingenuous and wrong.
Borough President Melinda Katz stated her opposition to the concert proposals in a press release on Nov. 2.
“While public events of any scale that enhance our borough are encouraged, I take issue when it is at the expense of cutting off public access to our treasured parks like Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which is enjoyed by thousands of families and residents every week in the summer months,” Katz wrote.
She also noted that there is no official city policy, nor a public review process to account for adverse impacts to the community.
“These proposals to rent out precious public parkland to for-profit organizations for paid-admission events are therefore not acceptable at this time,” Katz continued. “It has never been done before in Queens, and without a fair city policy approved by the community to properly shape this significant precedent, we should not start now.”
Residents use the park for all kinds of recreational activities, including walking, biking, soccer, tennis, cricket, barbecues, picnics and family events. The proposed dates would conflict with local events like the Louis Armstrong Festival, the World’s Fair Festival and Mets games, Katz noted.