Over the weekend, the New York Times wrote about Council Woman Julissa Ferreras’ efforts to improve Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. As the Times says, “Ms. Ferreras concluded that what separated Flushing Meadows-Corona from well-kept parks like Prospect and Central Parks was the presence of an effective nonprofit conservancy or alliance.” She helped secure a lump sum of $25,000,000 as seed money for such a nonprofit. This first round of funding includes $8,000,000 from the city, $10,000,000 from the United States Tennis Association (who is using up parkland to build two new tennis stadiums) and $7,500,000 from Related Companies and Sterling Equities (also using parkland to develop Willets Point). Of course, this loss of parkland is the cause of controversy — this article by A Walk in the Park calls the development proposals “classic examples of most troubling legacy of the Bloomberg administration’s approach to economic development.” Regardless, it’s undeniable that the park needs more funding — a consulting firm found that Flushing Meadows-Corona Park needs about $5,500,000 a year for acceptable maintenance; the city now spends about $3,130,000 a year.
The Times goes into detail about Ferreras’ negotiations with the Tennis Center and the Willets Point developers. She initially asked the Tennis Center for $18,000,000 for a new park alliance — after the Tennis Center countered with $1,000,000 the two groups met at $10,000,000. She also asked that the Tennis Center hold more tennis programs for low-income children, as well as host high school graduations. The article notes that on the date of the Willets Point City Council hearing, Ferreras still had not made up her mind, and many council members waited to defer to her judgement. She got the developers to agree to more affordable housing, a new school, library, daycare center, and a rooftop farm on top of the mega mall. According to Charles J. O’Byrne, of Related Companies: “She is very tough; there’s no doubt about it… She’s not fooling around. She plays for keeps.”