Thursday, April 20, 2006

"Queens Councilmen seek sweet deal with the Mets" MetroNy 04/20/06

Queens Councilmen seek sweet deal with the Mets

by patrick arden / metro new york

APR 20, 2006

CORONA — At the unveiling of plans for a new Mets’ ballpark two weeks ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg scolded Queens Councilmen who were trying to negotiate a community benefits agreement with the team. He called their threats to stall the project a “demand to get some ransom.”

The popular view of Shea Stadium has the park isolated from residential areas. (Photo: Patrick Arden/Metro)

Councilman Tony Avella said the mayor’s comments were “overblown.”

“It’s not appropriate for him to be silent during the Yankees’ negotiations with Bronx officials and then to come out against our negotiations with the Mets,” he responded yesterday. “He’s not consistent.”

The Yankees agreed to a $50 million deal in the Bronx. The Mets balked at the $1 million requested by Queens lawmakers.

No agreement

“The administration always tries to slip things through the public review process by splitting up projects,” Avella said, referring to the new Mets’ stadium and a plan to redevelop neighboring Willets Point. “The redevelopment of Willets Point will greatly impact traffic and other environmental issues. We asked the administration’s people, how can you not do something about the traffic when you’ve got this other project? ‘Well,’ they said, ‘that’s a whole other issue.’

“No, you can’t do that. You know darn well you’re going to redevelop an area right across the street from the stadium. You can’t play games here — just admit these two projects are tied together.”

Similar complaints were dismissed over the ties between the new Yankee Stadium and the neighboring Gateway Mall project at the Bronx Terminal Market.

Avella’s concerns are shared by the area’s other Council members, John Liu and Hiram Monserrate. Yesterday Monserrate added Councilman Leroy Comrie as another strong proponent of a benefits agreement with the Mets, though Comrie represents St. Albans and Jamaica. When asked how long the delegation could delay approving the Mets’ financing plan, Monserrate said, “Until it’s dead.”

In Shea’s shadow

Roosevelt Avenue remained clogged two hours after the Mets lost yesterday. Dozens of cars stayed in the parking lot, waiting for traffic to die down.

Across the Grand Central Parkway is the neighborhood of Corona. Rev. Gilbert Pickett, pastor of the Mount Horeb Baptist Church, explained the cars become overwhelming when the Mets play during the U.S. Open. He took part in a march to Shea on Tuesday night with Avella and Monserrate.

“I understand there’s a committee of politicians dealing with the Mets, and I’m sorry they didn’t put any community leaders on that committee,” Pickett said. “Let’s face it: Queens is Queens, but Jamaica is not going to be affected by the flow of traffic or parking issues.

“My main concerns are traffic and jobs,” he said. “Three years’ worth of construction jobs would go a long way toward helping people in this community, and they should be given consideration.”

Extra innings?

• Next week the City Council will vote on both stadium-financing plans.

• The teams are seeking tax-exempt bonds to fund their new stadiums. The IRS has yet to approve the scheme.

• On Monday Avella sent out a letter calling on the Mets and the Yankees to support Little Leagues in exchange for “reaping huge tax breaks from the City.”

• “The delegation last met with the Mets several weeks ago, and I don’t think we’re close to an agreement,” Avella said.


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