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Flushing scores $40M project as venues shift for Olympic bid

The Flushing park, the site of six events, now gets an Olympic pool and an NHL-sized skating rink, a $40 million project that park officials have wanted for years. But building complications and new International Olympic Committee standards forced officials to move a $64 million swimming aquatic center from Astoria Park to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Bloomberg told a news conference at the Queens Museum of Art last Thursday.The proposed location for a velodrome has also changed from Long Island City to the Bronx.The shuffle comes in response to Olympic committee critiques that prompted bid officials to cluster 17 of the 28 athletic venues at three sites: Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the Hudson Yards on the West Side of Manhattan and an area straddling the Harlem River in the Bronx and Manhattan. The others are scattered throughout the city.New York is vying with London, Madrid, Moscow and Paris to host the Games. The city is ranked fourth and the Olympic committee will announce a winner on July 6, 2005. Paris is ranked first. "Our revised venue plan responds to the concerns of the (Olympic committee) and has dramatically improved New York City's bid," said Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, the leader of the city's bid committee, NYC2012.He said the committee wanted venues closer together to give athletes an easier commute. Archery and water polo would now take place at the Flushing park cluster, which would also feature tennis at the National Tennis Center; white water slalom in a refurbished Fountain of the Planets; and the three canoeing and kayaking events in Meadow and Willow lakes, which would be dredged and reconnected.The skating rink will not be used in the Summer Olympics but will allow the Museum of Art to demolish its ice rink, making way for a $20 million expansion, Bloomberg said. The new 50-meter pool area will have seating for 1,500 and is designed to temporarily accommodate 5,000 should the city host the Games. Construction was slated to begin in January and to be completed by 2007, the mayor said.Borough President Helen Marshall said she was thrilled to get a new pool at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which has been without a swimming hole since Ederle pool was razed in 1996.Assistant Commissioner of Parks Estelle Cooper said she has been pressing for a pool for about five years. "I think it's wonderful," she said.The 1,255-acre park has a storied history, Marshall said. It hosted the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs and was the site of the first U.N. meeting."The new pool will be another jewel in the crown jewel of our park," she said. And the project will leave another Queens landmark - Astoria Pool - untouched, she said.The original plan would have drastically altered the legendary Astoria Pool, a 330-foot-long watering hole built in 1936. The largest pool in New York City, it would have been diced into three new ones, covered by a translucent roof and equipped with seating for 15,000.But Doctoroff said that plan was dropped after the Olympic committee ruled that the swimming and diving events must be separated. Astoria Park, he said, could not accommodate the change.A proposed 5,000-seat velodrome and badminton court were also moved from Queensbridge to the Bronx, he said, because the owner of the lot, Silvercup Studios, decided to move forward with a new development on the planned site.Still, if New York City is chosen, western Queens will figure prominently in the Games as home to the Olympic Village, a $1.5 billion waterfront development in Hunters Point, he said. With 4,500 luxury units, the complex will house 18,000 full-time residents after the Games, Doctoroff said. Reach reporter Matthew Monks at 718-229-0300 ext. 156 or by email at news@timesledger.com.

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