Some Queens lawmakers were not happy after hearing that a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family will soon announce his plan to fund a soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a billionaire who already owns an English soccer team, Manchester City, intends to pay $100 million to Major League Soccer to purchase its 20th franchise team, which will likely be called New York City Football Club, according to a report in The New York Times.
Mansour would then self-finance the roughly $350 million, 25,000-seat stadium and begin play in 2016 — plans he is expected to announce along with MLS and the Bloomberg administration within four to six week, the Times reported.
But that news did not sit well with City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who released a statement blasting Abu Dhabi as a country where homosexuality “is punishable by death.
“This is outrageous. This is also a country where gay and lesbian people could be subject to chemical castration,” Dromm, an openly gay politician, said in the statement. “It is totally unacceptable. I urge my colleagues in the City Council and elected officials across the state to join me in saying that New Yorkers won’t do business with a murderous regime and we won’t sell, trade or give away our public assets to those who discriminate and participate in human rights abuses.”
MLS declined to comment directly on the reported deal, saying only that the machinations of ownership would not be made public.
“While we are making progress on the New York expansion team, we have not finalized the ownership agreement,” a spokeswoman said. “Our discussions with potential ownership groups remain private.”
The controversial plan has drawn the ire of several park advocacy groups and faces some engineering obstacles as well.
The 13-acre site would include what the league is calling a publicly accessible berm under the stadium, according to 2012 preliminary plans supplied to TimesLedger Newspapers in February.
One reason the berm might be necessary is the Flushing River, which still runs underground from the bay to Meadow Lake directly under where MLS wants to site the stadium.
In fact, a pair of large, clearly visible pipes carry water underground between the mouth of the Flushing River and into the Pool of Industry. The pipes then lead out of the pool on the southern end and then resurface about 100 yards away at the head of a small creek that flows into Meadow Lake.
In 2004, the city Parks Department commissioned a study to map a vision for Flushing Meadows, which included possibly digging up the river and connecting Meadow and Willow lakes.
Reconfiguring the water structures was one of three major changes that the study found would significantly improve the park — along with getting rid of pavement and impervious surfaces and making the park more accessible through traffic improvements.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.