On Tuesday, more than a dozen Queens organizations united to demand that New York City reclaim two acres of land in Willets Point that it handed over to the Queens Development Group for $1. That land is the potential home of a new soccer stadium, which will likely host Queensboro FC, a United Soccer League team that will reportedly begin play in 2020.
The coalition of community groups, known as Nos Quedamos, called on the city to take back the land and create affordable housing at the site instead of a stadium and/or some other high-profile development.
Author and Freedom Entertainment Group President AniYa A. began the demonstration by specifically calling out a proposed stadium, a likely part of a deal to introduce a pro soccer team to Queens.
“Nos Quedamos means we will stay. We are here to stand up and fight. Fight against greedy developers. Fight the mayor who forgot us. Fight for the people of color who are sick and tired of being pushed around and pushed out of our City! Fight the Queens Borough President [Melinda Katz] and local Councilmember [Francisco Moya] who want a new stadium built at Willets Point. We Fight against an Air Train. We Fight because none of these proposals meet the needs of our community,” AniYa A. said, according to a press release.
At issue for the coalition is whether the city would honor its commitment to ensure Willets Point is redeveloped with affordable housing for local low-income residents. Any new stadium deal would have to come with a significant number of affordable housing units — and I mean truly affordable housing for the lowest income and homeless New Yorkers. That should be a minimum requirement for any project at this point. The city got the Queens Development Group to commit to building 1,100 affordable housing units — not nearly enough for what amounts to a neighborhood-making project, but a commitment that nevertheless may be in jeopardy.
I first began reporting on the proposed soccer stadium in October after Katz’s press team shared a photo of Katz, Councilmember Francisco Moya and David Villa at Borough Hall with local reporters and editors (I am managing editor of the Queens Daily Eagle). A short paragraph about a proposed stadium accompanied the photo:
“One option that was discussed is a proposal to build a 10,000 to 25,000-seat soccer stadium in the Willets Point redevelopment area that would serve as home for the Queensboro Football Club, a proposed new team that would play in the United Soccer League, a second division professional league,” the statement said.
Chris Kivlehan at Midfield Press has also learned a lot about the prospective team. He pretty quickly identified a likely owner as soccer media executive Michael Cohen (not that one) by searching for the QueensboroFC.com domain name information. Cohen owns the media company Bizzy Signals Entertainment and has two decades of experience producing television coverage of high-level soccer tournaments, including World Cups.
David Villa, who recently left NYCFC for Japan, is another likely investor.
Kivlehan said he wonders whether the Mets will get involved in bringing Queensboro FC (or a Queens-based USL team by some other name) to Willets Point.
Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts purchased the USL’s Chicago club, which plans to build a 20,000-seat stadium.
Queens Development Group is a joint venture between Mets owners Sterling Equities and Related Companies. Check out this site for PR information and glowing updates on the Willets Point development plan from the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
(As a Mets fan, I can’t help but wonder: Is this why the Wilpons won’t make a move for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado!? If they bought a soccer team, they would definitely have to stop falling back on the phony Madoff excuse for not spending money).
A proposal for a soccer-specific stadium in Willets Point is nothing new. NYCFC were long-rumored to be seeking a stadium at the site. The MLS club will likely pursue a location in the South Bronx, however.
Katz and Moya formed a task force to study Willets Point stadium proposals in 2017 and Katz reiterated her support earlier this year.
“I have not made it a secret that I support a stadium there,” Katz told Crain’s in February. “I think it would be a great thing for the constituents of the borough of Queens.”
But a lot of people don’t.
Read the full press release from Nos Quedamos: