Major League Soccer is still casting an eye at Aqueduct as the site for a new stadium after talks in the Bronx failed to come up with an agreement, the Bronx borough president told a meeting of the Community News Group earlier this month.
Ruben Diaz, Jr., who was elected borough president in 2009, visited the Brooklyn headquarters of CNG, the parent company of the Bronx Times Reporter for a wide-ranging discussion with the newspaper chain’s editors.
Asked about the status of MLS’s efforts to build a stadium in the Bronx for New York City’s first professional soccer team, Diaz said the search had shifted back to Queens.
He invited the league to consider the Bronx after its proposal to put a stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park drew fire from preservationists, activists and some elected officials as well as the Mets, who play nearby at Citi Field.
The New York City Football Club, owned by the New York Yankees and the Manchester City Football Club, began playing at Yankee stadium this year. The team is MLS’s first entry into the city, but Diaz said the science of Yankee stadium is not ideal for soccer and MLS would like to construct a more appropriate stadium.
A potential spot was found right across from Yankee Stadium that would have involved removing a major Bronx company that manufactures the brain parts of elevators and employs 420 people, 80 percent of whom are from the Bronx.
Diaz insisted that Major League Soccer purchase the company and relocate it within the borough, to keep the jobs and tax stream in the county.
The city did not want to invest any money in the deal because there were too many pieces in play and the Abu Dhabi royal family, which owns Manchester City, is flush with money in its own right, Diaz said.
“The Yankees are back looking at Aqueduct,” said Diaz, who expects to lose a longstanding bet with state Assemblyman Francisco Moya of Corona, Queens that the stadium will ultimately be built in Queens—not the Bronx. The loser will have to give the winner an empanada.
There were no details on whether talks are now underway about Aqueduct, but in September Senator Joseph Addabbo, of Howard Beach, Queens said MLS was looking at a city-owned parking lot south of the Aqueduct race track as a possible site.
Addabbo, who opposes building a stadium at Aqueduct because of traffic concerns and limited public transportation, said the parking lot was under a long-term lease arrangement with the Port Authority.
The Bronx may lose soccer to Queens, but it will eventually be the home to a large group of disenfranchised auto shop owners from Willets Point, which is the site of an ambitious $4 billion retail, commercial and residential project.
The Sunrise Cooperative’s 46 owners entered into an agreement with the city to move to the Bronx as they faced the threat of losing their property to eminent domain.
“The group got a raw deal,” Diaz said. “The city should have given them more resources—sizable subsidies.”
He said the Bronx was not very enthusiastic initially about having the Sunrise shops move to the south Bronx because the co-op would compete with the borough’s existing industry and bring more traffic to Hunts Point.
But after a series of meetings with the community board and other groups, Diaz said it was decided that the Bronx needed to support the Willets Point auto owners.
The plan is to build a state-of-the-art facility with cutting-edge technology once Sunrise completes the steps to get the work started at the auto-repair facility.
The co-op is now facing eviction from Willets Point because the paperwork for certificate of occupancy and other basic requirements was not filed. The court-ordered deadline to move to the Hunts Point was June 1.
Diaz said he was confident the project would happen, but there was no timeline for when it would be done.
“It’s up to Queens,” he said.