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Activists keep hope alive for Flushing Olympic stadium

The group is...

By Alex Ginsberg

With only two years to go before the International Olympic Committee decides on New York City’s bid to host the 2012 summer games, a coalition of Queens activists and Manhattan residents is pushing hard for an Olympic stadium in Flushing.

The group is openly questioning statements by officials heading the city’s bid effort that the Flushing option is not under consideration.

“They looked into it in the early days of planning,” said David Oats, president of the Queens Olympic Committee, a small group advocating the Willets Point site for the stadium. “They are still holding it out ... they do have it as a backup plan.”

Dan Doctoroff, the deputy mayor heading NYC2012, the organization devoted to bringing the games to New York, told the TimesLedger last month that the plan to build a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan would go forward. He added curtly that a Flushing option was not on the table and played down community resistance to the West Side project, claiming that he maintained a good relationship with local residents.

But groups representing Manhattan’s West Side disputed those assertions and plan to fight any stadium proposal for their neighborhood through political and legal avenues.

John Fisher, coordinator of the New York Neighborhood Coalition, said more than 35 community organizations had banded together to fight the project, which he fears will flood the already congested West Side of Manhattan with traffic and destroy a thriving residential neighborhood. The group plans to file a lawsuit to block the project.

“We’re absolutely 100 percent unalterably opposed,” he said.

And while Fisher and his neighbors do not necessarily care about the same issues as does Oats — namely, the redevelopment of the unsightly auto shops in Willets Point and the potential economic benefit to Queens — they are happy to join forces with him to foil the West Side stadium plan.

“Our position is, don’t put it in Manhattan,” Fisher said.

The current plan proposed by NYC2012 calls for Queens to host more events than any other borough except Manhattan. Track cycling and badminton would take place in Long Island City, swimming and diving in Astoria and rowing and tennis events in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. A major residential housing development that will serve as the Olympic village is slated for Hunters Point.

The Olympic Stadium on Manhattan’s West Side would host track and field events.

But both Fisher and Oats argue that the cost of the West Side plan alone would be prohibitive, with a proposed extension of the No. 7 subway line west from Times Square likely to cost $1 billion.

The Willets Point site, on the other hand, would require no upgrades in the transportation infrastructure, Oats said.

“Here’s a section of the city that is basically a blight, and it is prime property,” he said. “It is adjacent to the No. 7 line, the Long Island Rail Road, LaGuardia Airport, Flushing Bay Marina, the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck, the LIE, Northern Boulevard ... it is the most central location you can imagine.”

So far, however, Doctoroff and NYC2012 have demonstrated no interest in such proposals, Oats said. He hopes officials will realize that their plan puts the entire Olympic bid in jeopardy.

“They’re going to see this thing mired in controversy. The West Side people are going to go to court, and I think they’ll kill this,” Oats said.

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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