Let’s Talk: Queens Boro Prez wants a soccer stadium in Flushing

melinda katz

by DAVE MARTINEZ

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz shocked the local soccer community during her recent State of the Borough address, coming out in favor of a soccer stadium in Willets Point — mere blocks away from Major League Soccer’s original targeted “MLS to QUEENS” space in Flushing Meadows Park.

And why did she do it?

Simply put, she wants to start a conversation — one she feels will serve her constituents and better her borough.

“It was important for someone to say, on a borough wide or city level, this discussion is worth having,” Katz tells EoS in an exclusive interview. “This was about responding to constituent needs … You cant walk through Flushing Meadow Park without seeing the thousands of families playing soccer today. It has become part of our culture, a beautiful part of our culture in Queens and it’s something I think we should respond to.”

Willets Point, as Katz points out, has been a maelstrom of political turmoil. From community activism to litigative measures, the dilapidated Iron Triangle has been the source of debate for years as parties wage war over the usage of land in this long neglected area. The interests of the soccer community are no different. Willets Point provides a zoned area for sports and entertainment which can place a soccer club right in the middle of the most vibrant soccer community in New York City, making it the most desirable location in the five boroughs.

“Queens has an enormous amount of growth over the past several years and the whole State of the Borough concept was about the fact that we are a borough of growth but still a borough of family. Willets Point is a subject we have been talking about for generations. First of all, we need to clean it up,” Katz said. “The second thing is its in the middle of a lawsuit for the Willets Point properties but there is no reason to wait for that to be done to just talk about what else can go there. If we are going to be a borough of growth and a borough of families, responding to families needs is also important and this is a borough that has always had a lot of need for soccer fields and being responsive to a lot of different folks that like soccer.

“A soccer stadium there would respond to a lot of the constituents request, to have a first class, first rate soccer stadium in the borough of Queens,” she continues. “We have to think bigger, think out of the box more than we have been doing over the last few years and to allow us to have those discussions. Its not park property. It is city or private property and is well worth the discussion.”

Both New York City FC and the New York Cosmos have previously spoken to City officials about building a stadium and training grounds in Queens, EoS has learned. Joining them are the Islanders of NHL fame who are looking for an expedient exit from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. However, none of these groups has reached out since Katz’s State of the Borough address.

“I’ve had discussions over the years with both (Cosmos and NYCFC) but it never focused on Willets Point,” Katz said. “This [address] was not about one organization. This was about the use of the property and whether Willets Point was the right place to continue the stadium like atmosphere of Flushing Meadow Park while continuing to be a place for families to go. Which organization is not what I am about right now.”

Despite that, Katz felt it her duty to get the ball rolling for the thousands of soccer lovers in the area.

“We need to think about where we will be in 30-40 years and soccer is a larger part of our constituency every single day,” she continues, adding: “Nothing is going there until we clean it up and it will be years until we clean it up.”