Plan to bring NYC’s first pro soccer stadium to Queens wins key backing

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By Dan Sears

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said he’s lining up behind plans for the city’s first-ever professional soccer stadium in Willets Point – with some conditions.

Richards on Wednesday announced his official recommendation to approve Phase II of the Willets Point redevelopment, along with a list of conditions, moving the mixed-use development project a step closer to becoming a reality.

Plans for the $780 million, 25,000-seat stadium now move onto the City Planning Commission for a public hearing and a vote. In addition to the stadium – to be used by Major League Soccer’s New York City Football Club– the project includes a 250-room hotel, 80,000 feet of commercial space and 1,400 units of affordable housing.

Richards’ conditions include local hiring requirements, inclusion of local street vendors and greater benefits and infrastructure upgrades for the surrounding community. However, the borough president’s approval isn’t mandatory, so his requests aren’t binding.

“I am proud to see the former ‘Valley of Ashes’ transform into better housing, schooling and open space,” Richards said in a statement. “But I must see material and serious commitments to the surrounding communities of Corona, Flushing and East Elmhurst.”

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The soccer stadium is part of Phase II of the mixed-use project. Phase I is already underway, including 1,100 units of affordable housing, a 650-seat school for grades kindergarten through eighth grade and additional retail and community space.

In his official recommendation letter, Richards said at least 30% of the developers’ contracts and hires in “phase two” should go to minority- and women-owned businesses and local residents.

He also suggested discounted NYCFC match tickets for local residents as well as extra funding for bus and subway upgrades and other capital improvements around Flushing Meadows Corona Park, like sports fields and playgrounds.

The applicants for the soccer stadium project — the NYCFC, New York City Economic Development Corporation, and Queens Development Group — did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Richards’ letter.

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