Leni Juca, owner of Oxium Copy and Print on Roosevelt Avenue.

Leni Juca, owner of Oxium Copy and Print on Roosevelt Avenue.

Hundreds of small business owners in Queens are joining with the Fairness Coalition of Queens to oppose the three proposed developments at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Many of the supportive businesses are putting posters in the windows of their storefronts to urge residents to contact Mayor Bloomberg. Images of some of the local business owners are available for download here: LINK

“The promise of jobs and business is a distraction from the reality: this development will damage small business and their employees in Queens,” said Julio Pefantes, the small business owner of Alexis Fine Jewelry on Roosevelt Avenue. “I have been here working and building my business for 12 years, 7 days a week. The truth is the development of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park will drive out the small businesses.”

Small business owners are adding their voices to the efforts to save the park from corporate development. The three proposals include:

– A 1.4 million square foot shopping mall (would be the largest in NYC)

– 2 new stadiums and concert venues on parkland

– Five parking garages and several new roads inside the park

– A diesel-fuel burning power plant inside the park

Most alarming, these three proposals are concurrent, yet there has been no public acknowledgment by the Bloomberg Administration or any of the applicants of the potential cumulative impacts of these multi-billion dollar demolition and construction projects.

“Smart business owners here get it,” said Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. “Loss of parkland not only depresses property values but it really hurts local businesses. That’s why New York is increasing parkland and open space across the city. This new proposal lacks clarity and business support. Imagine if 20 years ago they had decided to build a mall and stadiums in Prospect Park. Do you think those Brooklyn businesses would be doing better or worse?”
The number of business people speaking out is growing:

“In Queens, we need and deserve open green space. We need and deserve a space to exercise our bodies and minds,” said Leni Juca, owner of Oxium Copy and Print on Roosevelt Avenue.  “If we lose parkland, residents and youth will be forced to the street corners and crime will go up. We need positive outlets for the young people of our community, not more stadiums for luxury buyers. As a small business owner in the community, I have an interest in bettering Jackson Heights. Communities do not become better by destroying necessary open space and driving up rents. Communities become better when everyone has access to the public goods that they deserve.”

“This is an immigrant neighborhood and soccer is very important to many people here. I am in favor of playing soccer with my children in the park on Saturdays during the summer. Why can’t they build the stadium somewhere else without destroying the park?” said Carlos Vazquez, small business owner of Vera Cruz Foods on Roosevelt Avenue.  “Our park is the heart of our community. It is the open space for all to come together and enjoy. As a resident and a father, I must work to protect the park.”

“I would love for there to be professional soccer in Queens, that is built by Queens and truly benefits Queens. But the proposed developments at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park will do far more harm than good. It takes away an essential common good from our community,” said Miguel Rodriguez, small business owner of Venus and Dahlia on 37th Avenue. “Frankly, before we talk about building three more stadiums, or the mall, or more parking lots and parking garages, we should talk about better maintaining our park. We need more resources to protect the green space, not to pave over it.”

“My reason for opposing these developments is clear: we need a park here. Also, we have enough malls as is. What we need to focus on is the commercial space that already exists and is empty, not to build more. Why build another mall while there are so many small businesses, already contributing to the community, that are struggling?” said Iona Masheyova, small business owner of Shrier Eye Care Center on 37th Avenue.

About the Fairness Coalition of Queens: The Fairness Coalition of Queens was formed to ensure that the people who use Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the surrounding neighborhoods are protected and any redesign is handled in a responsible manner with community input. Major concerns voiced by the Coalition include the impact on small businesses, increased traffic and air pollution, the need for good quality jobs, loss of public space, broken promises on affordable housing and lack of community involvement. The coalition includes ALIGN, Asian Americans For Equality, Bay Terrace Community Alliance, Chhaya CDC, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), Jackson Heights Beautification Group, Jackson Heights Green Alliance, Make the Road New York, New Immigrant Community Empowerment, Occupy Queens, Queens Civic Congress, Queens Community House, Queens Congregations United for Action, and Queens Pride House. www.ProtectThePark.org

About Flushing Meadows Corona Park: Flushing Meadows Corona Park is the heart and lungs of our community. Local families use it for recreation, family gathering, soccer, baseball, cricket, picnics, boating, running, and other exercise. 2.3 Million people live in Queens and our park is the most important open space for these residents.  75% of the surrounding community are people of color. 40% live below the poverty. 51% childhood obesity in Corona — worst in the City. 20,000 people play soccer every week in the organized soccer leagues alone, not to mention all of the other users. This space is so heavily utilized that we can’t afford to lose one inch of public green space in our park.

FMCP is the largest park in Queens. Its users are overwhelmingly working class, immigrants and people of color. The park has been poorly funded for years–with budgets far below Central Park or Prospect Park. Currently neither the USTA nor the Mets pay any money for the specific upkeep or improvement of Flushing Meadows Corona Park–despite making hundreds of millions in revenue on public land and having a tremendous impact on the park.