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NYC Olympic bid passes Flushing Rotary test

Flushing Rotary Club members gave an enthusiastic endorsement to the city’s Olympic bid last week in an unlikely way.

They sat still.

Jay Kriegal, who as executive director of NYC 2012 heads the city’s efforts to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, detailed the proposal to about three dozen community leaders from northeast Queens at the club’s weekly lunch meeting last Thursday.

“Normally when we have a program, if it goes beyond 1:30 p.m. half the club gets up and leaves,” said club President Rosilyn Overton. “It was well after 2 o’clock and nobody had left.”

Flashing slide images and talking rapidly, Kriegal showed how the privately funded improvements planned for parks and other facilities would not only accommodate the Games but also leave behind a legacy for the city.

“After the Games are over we have a modern park,” he said of Astoria Park, where a massive, aging pool would be replaced with two Olympic-sized pools and one diving tank. “That is one gift to the city.”

The bid also calls for major renovations to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the construction of a sports complex near the Queensboro Bridge and the addition of more apartment towers to Queens West, the Hunter’s Point development project slated to serve as the Olympic Village.

Stressing transportation as the single most important issue for the Games, Kriegal showed off the Olympic X — a transportation system composed of trains running along an east-west axis and ferries running north-south, which would carry athletes to every sports venue and meet at Queens West.

“Our waterways are totally underutilized,” realtor Vincent Gianelli said in support of the proposed ferry system. “I thought it was a nice approach to use a waterway that wouldn’t be congested, and it made all of Queens and the city of New York very accessible.”

Rotary Club members said they were excited by the Olympic bid on levels both symbolic and practical.

“I found it inspiring to try to make New York City the focus of the world, especially since we’re a city of such diversity,” said Overton, who invited Kriegal to give the presentation.

Virginia Dent, an environmentalist who sits on the Soil and Water Conservation District Board, said she found the plans to be “very, very progressive.”

“The city could certainly use that kind of renovations, shall we say, taking the old sites and bringing them up,” she said.

Although some activists in Flushing have loudly protested plans to combine two lakes in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the leaders who attended last Thursday’s presentation praised the proposal because it would clean up filthy bodies of water now considered “environmentally a disaster,” as Overton put it.

New York was among four American cities to get past the first cut by the United States Olympic Committee, which trimmed down the original list of eight cities this fall.

The U.S. candidate city will be selected in November 2002 and move ahead for consideration by the International Olympic Committee, which will render a final decision in the summer of 2005.

Although Kriegal stressed that New York would have to win the bid “on the merits,” he acknowledged that the city’s comeback following the destruction of the World Trade Center would make a great Olympic story.

“I think 9/11 does create a reason for the world to come here 10 years from now,” he said.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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