View of Citifield from the Passerelle Boardwalk over Corona Yard
With the recent completion of the United States Open tennis tournament at Arthur Ashe Stadium and the now-expected ascension of the New York Mets into the National League baseball playoffs for the first time since 2006, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park finds itself at the center of New York City’s professional sports life as summer 2015 draws to a close. Let’s take a look at some of these venues as well as the park itself. (more…)
In Major League Baseball, April 15th is Jackie Robinson Day, honoring the player who broke the barrier against African-American players participating in MLB. His first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers was on April 15, 1947.
In many ways Jackie Robinson was the most compelling player in major league baseball history. He was selected by Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey to break the MLB color barrier in 1947 (no African-American had been employed by a major league team since at least 1901, the beginning of the “modern era” of major league ball) after a sterling athletic record at UCLA, where he had lettered in track, football, baseball and basketball. Rickey needed a can’t-miss prospect, as well as a person who would be able to endure the inevitable racial nonsense that would arise in a sport where many players were from the deep South.
Robinson was a five-tool player who hit for average, and power (averaging 16 home runs per year), possessed above average speed, and excellently threw and fielded his position (second base for his early years). Advancing age and diabetes slowed him down in 1956 and 1957; the Dodgers traded him to the Giants, who like the Dodgers were moving to California, but Robinson chose to retire. Jackie Robinson passed away in 1972, shortly after addressing a World Series crowd in Cincinnati. He is interred in Cypress Hills Cemetery, through which passes the parkway later named for him. In 1997 his uniform number, 42, was retired by every major league team, except for players already wearing it; the last one, legendary Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera, retired in 2013.
No borough-wide memorial had been named for him until 1997, when upon the 50th anniversary of his ascension to the Dodgers, New York State designated the entire route of the Interboro Parkway in his name. The above photo shows the Jackie Robinson Parkway at Jamaica Avenue.
The city’s first Major League Soccer arena may still be built in Queens, after plans fell through to build one in Flushing Meadows – Corona Park. Capital New York reports that “Manchester City Football Club owner Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan and the New York Yankees, which are partnering in the joint venture for the New York City Football Club, are now looking at a possible site ‘adjacent to the aqueduct racetrack in Queens.'” They picked this location because there is lots of nearby land suited for development, although there are no specifics on the exact location.
Another plan to build the stadium near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx fell through, and now the MLS folks are looking all over New York City for a potential spot. (Bloomberg offered the development near Yankee Stadium as an alternative to Flushing Meadows – Corona Park.) According to Queens Courier, some local pols regard this new plan for the Aqueduct with skepticism, with State Senator Joe Addabbo stating, “Exact location and size of the stadium, traffic patterns, public safety and the certain impact on the surrounding neighborhood quality of life are just some of the issues that I would need answers to in examining this proposal.”
Queens got talent. United States Tennis Association employees set up mini courts in Corona Plaza and gave free instruction to youngsters this morning. Activities included lessons on basic skills, balance, and coordination, as well as ball-and-racket exchanges and tips on long-term athletic development. The participants used loaned mini-rackets and foam balls, and USTA employees imparted gifts and provided information on low-cost programs at the nearby Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (where the two-week US Open will take place starting on August 25th).
Then as a special treat, officials showed the permanent US Open singles trophies to the awed crowd. It was so much fun that the USTA will do it again in the same plaza next Friday, August 15th, at 10:30 am in conjunction with other activities such as healthy eating demonstrations, a merchant showcase, health screenings, and back-to-school discounts. Corona Plaza project manager William McCarthy hopes to offer these events weekly as part of his “Fridays Under the Seven” healthy living series.In the top photo, Assemblyman Francisco Moya holds the US Open men’s singles trophy, the same one that Rafael Nadal hoisted last year, in the second row, while City Council Member Julissa Ferreras shows the women’s singles trophy, which Serena Williams won last year. Queens Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jack Friedman is in back right in a suit, while Community Board 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol is in suspenders next to him. Check out more photos after the jump… (more…)
It’s time to modernize a Queens spot where youngsters play a sport whose history dates back to before the 14th century. The Shannon Gaels Gaelic Athletic Association’s home field, Frank Golden Park in College Point, recently received $580,000 in public funds for an upgrade. The money — an $80,000 allocation from City Council Member Paul Vallone and a $500,000 allocation from Borough President Melinda Katz — will go to resurfacing the playing and scrimmage fields as well as installing an eight-foot fence around the park and a 30-foot retractable fence behind each goal post. With several hundred members who trace their heritage to all 32 counties on the Emerald Isle, the Shannon Gaels fields boys, girls and co-ed teams in various age groups that compete throughout the world. The association, which also organizes competitions involving other Irish sports such as hurling, was founded in 2002 with no home. Members practiced on sections of Forest, Juniper Valley, and Sunnyside Gardens parks until 2009, when they signed a 15-year lease with the NYC Parks Department for rights to seven acres of Golden Park, just south of 14th Avenue.
Information on the sport and more photos on jump page.
At Pidgeon Meadow Road and Auburndale Lane along the southern edge of Flushing Cemetery is a remnant of the rural past: the Wesern Riding Club serving the Kissena Park bridle path. It’s surprising to see an active stable in any New York City neighborhood, but Auburndale remained semirural in character until well into the early 20th Century.
Unfortunately the century-old stables may not be in Auburndale much longer, as reports have surfaced that its owner has put it up for sale to local developers, who may build mixed-use residential and commercial buildings on the site. (more…)
Mayor Bloomberg injected some more controversy into the question of where New York City’s Major League Soccer team will play on Sunday when he said on his weekly radio address that Yankee Stadium will be the new team’s home. The team was originally bound for Queens. A 13-acre site had been identified in Corona Park. However, open space advocates and others pushed back, leaving the location of the team and its 25,000 seat stadium in limbo. After the mayor’s show his spokesperson had to “clarify” that no decision had been made yet on where the team will play. Queens assemblyman and soccer fan Francisco Moya is not deterred. He still wants to find the team a home in the borough, despite the best efforts of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. to bring the team his borough. According to the Daily News the two have wagered meals over where the team will end up. Moya told the news, “The Bronx is a baseball town. Queens is a soccer town. I’m going to invite him [Diaz] to Queens to see the first game played after we build a stadium.” What do you think? Should there be a soccer stadium in Corona Park?
In a part of town where all the streets are named “60,” it seems almost too good to be true: a picturesque and well-maintained soccer field featuring terrific matches every week with the spectacular skyline of midtown Manhattan as the backdrop. On a gravel path called 60th Court west of 60th Street, next to the Long Island Rail Road tracks, you will find one of Queens’ — and indeed New York City’s — most overlooked treasures.
The Metropolitan Oval has been used continuously for soccer since 1925. Soccer greats Tony Meola, Werner Roth, Tab Ramos and Edson Nascimento (Pele’s son) have all called Metropolitan Oval their home field at one time or another. The field is a U.S. Soccer Development Academy and seeks to develop the best young soccer talent in the region. The field hosts up to 20 games per week and is the home field for a number of local college teams. (more…)
The Yankees and England’s Manchester City announced Tuesday that they will form the newest Major League Soccer team, the New York City Football Club (NYCFC). Manchester City will play an exhibition match in the Bronx against Chelsea FC (the team from London, not the West 20s) this very Saturday, May 25. But a far more explosive question is where the new New York team ultimately plays.
The release says that NYCFC will have an interim home in 2015 but that it is “committed to seeking a new permanent stadium in New York.” Candidate No. 1? Flushing Meadows Corona Park, already a battleground between local groups and the U.S. Tennis Association.
It’s far from a done deal. A spokesman at City Planning told Brownstoner that any proposal would require a seven-month Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which would involved input from the local community board and borough president, followed by votes by City Planning and the City Council. He declined to comment further on the proposal because it hasn’t been officially submitted.
Stadiums are inherently tied to the public sector. Virtually all pro teams extract some sort of tax abatement as part of a new stadium deal, with the argument that the thousands of future spectators will lead directly to consumer spending and new jobs. But studies haven’t supported the claims that arenas lead to an overall net benefit. And this proposal comes at a time when Madison Square Garden, one of the most famous venues in the world, is trying to secure its own future.
Ferran Soriano, head of Manchester City, issued a cautious note regarding development:
“New York City FC will have a permanent home in the City in the great traditions of New York sports and world soccer – a home that must be a sports, commercial and civic success…But in considering any stadium site, we will listen first. This is what we have always done in Manchester and what we will do in New York. Only in this way, can the Club truly represent the City whose name it will carry.”
Mayor Bloomberg, a consistent fan of sports as an engine of economic development (see Atlantic Yards, Citi Field, the new Yankee Stadium and the defeated Jets proposal), was more bullish. But remember that this is his last year as mayor, and any decisions will likely be shaped by his successor.
“Soccer is one of the world’s most exciting and popular sports, and it should be played on the world’s biggest stage – in New York City…New Yorkers are the greatest sports fans in the world, and they will welcome a Major League Soccer franchise with the full-throated and loyal support they are famous for. Manchester City has a great reputation for both winning teams and serious community investment, and that will help them fit in well with the excellent leadership of New York City’s other professional sports teams. Increasingly, sports events and activities – from the NHL playoffs to the MLB All-Star game to the SuperBowl – are spurring economic growth, as our investments in new arenas and infrastructure are paying off.”
What do you think?
Photo: L-R, Randy Levine of the Yankees, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Ferran Soriano of Manchester City, via NYCFC