NYC Mayoral Candidates on Parks

From The New York Times, Where the Mayoral Candidates Stand on Key Issues

Subject: Parks

  1. Should the city allow Major League Soccer to build a stadium on 13 acres in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park?

    Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate, Democrat

    Mr. de Blasio, who called Flushing Meadows-Corona Park the “jewel of the Queens park system,” criticized the idea of putting a stadium there. He argued that the city had already ceded too much parkland to what he termed “corporate entities,” and called the stadium idea a “bad deal for New Yorkers.”

    John C. Liu, Comptroller, Democrat

    Mr. Liu, who lives in Queens, has consistently opposed a stadium plan for the park, most recently at a candidates’ forum in June. In explaining his position, he said that “scarce public space” should be kept accessible to the public and argued against privatization of parkland.

    Christine C. Quinn, City Council Speaker, Democrat

    At a forum in June, Ms. Quinn deferred to a councilwoman whose district includes Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. In response to the Times questionnaire, Ms. Quinn said she had not taken a firm position because a formal stadium proposal had yet to be submitted. However, she said the city should build on parkland “only when necessary” and only when “an equal or greater amount of open space” replaces it.

    William C. Thompson Jr., Former Comptroller, Democrat

    Mr. Thompson was noncommittal about a possible stadium, saying that the city needed to “proceed with caution.” A stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park would raise environmental concerns while reducing parkland for Queens residents, he said. He adopted a wait-and-see approach, concluding that the city must “monitor the situation very carefully” in order to maximize the financial benefit and expand parkland.

    Anthony D. Weiner, Former Congressman, Democrat

    Mr. Weiner said he was “open to the idea” of building a soccer stadium that would both host a professional team — Major League Soccer recently announced the formation of its 20th club — and provide more places for Queens residents to play soccer. When the soccer league unveiled its plan last fall, it offered to renovate nine soccer fields in the vicinity of the stadium.

    John A. Catsimatidis, C.E.O., Red Apple Group, Republican

    Mr. Catsimatidis said other sites should be considered for the stadium, calling it the “judicious thing to do” before parkland is developed. In contrast to Mayor Bloomberg’s strong support of the plan, he said that the city should not take sides, but should be an “honest broker.” Ultimately, Mr. Catsimatidis said he would support a stadium in the park, as long as it had community support and feedback from local residents.

    Joseph J. Lhota, Former Chairman, M.T.A., Republican

    Mr. Lhota rejected the stadium plan outright. While he supports bringing Major League Soccer to New York, he said that a park was not an appropriate location for such a stadium and he urged the league to look at other sites in order to preserve parkland.

  2. What changes would you make to the parks financing system? Would you limit the role of park conservancies in the interests of equity?

    Bill de Blasio

    Reiterating an idea he has championed during the campaign, Mr. de Blasio said that he would like to see well-financed conservancies contribute money to a neighborhood parks alliance. The alliance would then distribute it to neglected parks in low-income neighborhoods and in boroughs outside Manhattan. “Every New Yorker deserves access to well-maintained parkland close to their homes,” he said.

    John C. Liu

    Mr. Liu called for more equitable financing for parks, but stopped short of calling for wealthy parks to help needy ones. “It is great that New Yorkers want to contribute to parks, but we cannot simply rely on private funding,” he said. That, he said, leads to the “current situation” in which parks in low-income communities lack resources.

    Christine C. Quinn

    In an indirect reference to the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge Park, Ms. Quinn said that the city should shift its focus from “destination parks” to “revitalizing and restoring parks in our neighborhoods.” She would “baseline” financing for parks to make budgets more stable, a change from the practice under Mayor Bloomberg, when budgets for park maintenance contracted while capital financing for parks ballooned.

    William C. Thompson Jr.

    Mr. Thompson said he would expand the city’s focus on parks beyond “central Manhattan” to other boroughs, where a vast majority of parks lack conservancies, but he did not call for the redistribution of wealth between parks. Rather, he said he would protect parkland through more conservation and the restoration of maintenance budgets.

    Anthony D. Weiner

    Mr. Weiner expressed support for park conservancies, which supplement city budgets through private fund-raising and also organize volunteers. Most conservancies are in affluent neighborhoods, and Mr. Weiner said that he would not limit them but would try to “expand their reach to less glamorous parks” throughout the five boroughs.

    John A. Catsimatidis

    Mr. Catsimatidis called for more public-private partnerships when it comes to parks, declaring that “every park should have” a conservancy-type group. He said he would leverage private financing wherever possible and encourage private investment in public enterprises, including parks.

    Joseph J. Lhota

    Mr. Lhota praised the network of conservancies, saying they had been “invaluable in sharing the costs” of enhancing and maintaining certain city parks. He said he would like to see a citywide conservancy that attracts donations to benefit all parks. And to encourage more volunteerism, he would offer tax incentives to New Yorkers who spend a certain amount of time each year sprucing up parks.

  3. Would you support the city’s plan to create more pedestrian plazas on streets currently open to automobile traffic?

    Bill de Blasio

    Mr. de Blasio lauded the pedestrian plaza concept, crediting the car-free zones with easing congestion, improving safety and enhancing neighborhoods. He singled out Times Square and Herald Square, two of the most prominent such plazas, where office workers can sit and eat lunch in the middle of Broadway, calling them “wildly successful.” And he said that a “livable streets agenda” should expand to all boroughs.

    John C. Liu

    Mr. Liu expressed support for pedestrian plazas, but he warned that the city needed to be sensitive to the needs and desires of residents and businesses. “These projects should not be implemented without proper community outreach,” he said.

    Christine C. Quinn

    Ms. Quinn said that she supported the expansion of pedestrian plazas, but only after receiving community comments. In 2011, the City Council approved measures supported by Ms. Quinn that require the city to consult with a variety of agencies and community boards before creating new pedestrian plazas and bike lanes, and to make data available on safety and traffic impacts.

    William C. Thompson Jr.

    Mr. Thompson praised pedestrian plazas for improving traffic safety and voiced support for adding more in the boroughs beyond Manhattan, saying that they “deserved the same benefits and resources.”

    Anthony D. Weiner

    When Mayor Bloomberg and transportation officials introduced pedestrian plazas to the city’s streetscape, they hailed the spaces for their ability to reduce traffic and cut air pollution. But Mr. Weiner appears unconvinced, saying that he would support more plazas, but not at the “cost of additional congestion and pollution.

    John A. Catsimatidis

    Mr. Catsimatidis signaled a reluctance to approve additional pedestrian plazas, pending a hard look at their costs and benefits. “Decisions like these need to be made on a case-by-case basis,” he said, adding that they “may be appropriate in some areas, but not in others.”

    Joseph J. Lhota

    Mr. Lhota said that any more plazas must await careful study of the effect of existing plazas on traffic patterns. “Our economy and quality of life hinge greatly on our ability to move freely throughout the city,” he said. “Any plans to eliminate precious road space must be incorporated in an overall transportation strategy.”