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Editorial: Much ado in Hollis

No doubt about it. The people who live near St. John's University are mad as hell about plans to build a temporary stadium for a Mets minor league team. Last Thursday at the mayor's town hall meeting at the Susan B. Anthony School in Hollis, residents of Jamaica Estates and other nearby communities made their feelings abundantly clear.

The crowd, which under other circumstances has been broadly supportive of hizzoner, hissed and hooted and attempted to shout the mayor down before walking out en masse shortly before the town hall came to an end. However, despite all the passion and heat, the local residents were unable to explain why the temporary stadium would have a negative impact on their quality of life.

The city is planning to build a 3,500-seat stadium around an existing baseball diamond on the St. John's campus, which would be used by a Mets Class A minor league team. According to the Economic Development Corp., the team would play at St. John's for two seasons before moving to a permanent 6,500-seat stadium in Coney Island.

The primary concern of the opposition appears to center around the impact of the additional traffic and parking problems. When he could be heard, the mayor explained that St. John's had given assurances that the Mets fans would have ample parking on the St. John's campus. The 38 home games will be played at night and on weekends when most of the commuter students are not on campus. It is not likely that the fans will be taking up scarce parking spaces on commercial and residential streets.

And what about the traffic? Suppose the 3,500 fans arrive in 2,000 cars. The baseball field will be located on Utopia Parkway near the Union Turnpike. For at most an hour before and after each game, these already busy thoroughfares will experience an increase in traffic. In fact, there will be far less traffic than on an average day when classes are in session. Assuming that the Mets and St. John's will make sure that the traffic can move in and out quickly, there should be little or no impact on the surrounding community. And after the Mets leave, the stadium will be available for community use for at least five years.

What remained unclear after the town hall was why the EDC wants to invest $5 million in the temporary stadium and $20 million more on the permanent site in Brooklyn. Nevertheless, the mayor's instincts about what will benefit the city financially have been on target so far.

Much of the anger at last week's meeting centered around the mayor's refusal to reconsider the stadium. The mayor insisted that a decision had to be made because the team needed a place to play in June. Clearly, if this deal was going to happen it had to happen now.

The people who attended this meeting have nothing against baseball or the Mets. They just didn't want this small, temporary facility in their backyard. Sounds like a textbook definition of NIMBY.

Aurora Gareiss

Aurora Gareiss spent half a century fighting to preserve the wetlands in northeast Queens. Last week, at the age of 91, Aurora died. Aurora saw Udall's Cove as a precious treasure well worth preserving for future generations. The pond, which is now a protected preserve, serves as a nursery for countless species of birds and mammals.

Developers saw the wetlands, which separate Douglaston from Little Neck, as a potential goldmine. Those who had the privilege of knowing and working with her will miss her deeply. Thousands of others who may never know her name will have the privilege of enjoying the natural beauty of this cove, thanks to her stubborn fight.

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