When news broke this week that Major League Soccer was honing in on Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for a potential second stadium, debate about the plan instantly followed. One small point stuck out, particularly to MLS fans nationwide: would Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Queens) really not support a local team in favor of Barcelona? After his office contacted us to correct the WSJ misquote, it become very clear that Moya is a passionate advocate for Queens and soccer overall. Read on for our interview about why the Assemblyman feels a new soccer stadium would be "win-win for Queens", his love of soccer (and FC Barcelona), his familiarity with the Red Bulls, and his pick for the Euro 2012 final.
Assemblyman, it's great to speak to you. I certainly want to make sure you're quoted accurately. Well, you called me a eurosnob! I was born with a soccer ball in my crib, my friend. No, what I said was, I'm a diehard soccer fan. That's been the sport that I've played my whole life. She asked me if I would root for a New York team over my beloved FC Barcelona. I said I would root for them, but my allegiance will always be to my beloved Barcelona. Not that I would not root for a NY team.
Can you tell me when the league first approached you about the site at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park? The interesting thing is that I actually approached them about a year ago. I did some research knowing that there was going to be some ability to do an expansion team right now...I wrote two op-ed pieces, one I think went in the Daily News and a couple of the weeklies, the other went in El Diario. It talked about the economics of what a soccer stadium and what a soccer team would mean for the borough of Queens, in particularly this area which I represent. You're talking about a smaller arena, in an area that's not even utilized in the park. They're not taking away park space in the sense that fields will be missing. They're taking areas that are actually dead pools, that haven't been utilized since the 1960's World's Fair.
I know a lot of people were looking at that spot and saying, "It's just roped off and everyone wonders what it's going to be". Right. You can't even do anything there, you can't even play soccer there or anything along those lines. The soccer fields that are there are completely dilapidated. So I did some research, I saw what other cities were doing, what the short term and long term economic impact was in those areas, and then I approached Major League Soccer about it, and talking about having them look at this particular area in Queens, which was supposed to be the area the Jets Stadium was going to be on. And say, look, we have the infrastructure for it, because you have the major hubs of public transportation. The 7 line, the LIRR, you have the bus terminals there, every major highway artery: Grand Central, Van Wyck, LIE all converge in that area. So it's easy access.
This community is a natural soccer fan base. You walk in that park on any given day, at any given hour, and what you see is people playing soccer. It's where I learned to play, it's exactly where my father taught me how to play soccer. It's a sport that people are passionate about. But then, as it became more and more real, there were conversations that started happening, and that's when myself and Major League Soccer starting talking about this, and just on the basis on the economy of it, there's going to be 900 part-time jobs that are going to be added to this. There's going to be 300 permanent jobs that are going to be added to that, on top of the construction jobs. This is going to be a privately funded project, with no public dollars coming into this. The surrounding areas are going to be state-of-the-art soccer fields for the community.
Do you have any timeframe in mind for getting a proposal through Assembly? Once [planning processes] are moving forward, then I'm going to have to do everything at the state level for the park alienation space to this. Which, they came up with a great concept - the loss of the parkland, which is not actual green space to this, because this is just taking up areas in the park which are all the dead-pools that we talked about, 7.2 acres I think. They're looking at creating community parks within walking distance of that area, which I think is a great concept in this area. We need more green space, more of that. I think this is a great partnership, just not in the economics of it but in a natural fan-base to a sport that really - it is the world's sport.
I'm a diehard FC Barcelona fan. If you ever come into my office—you're going to see my autographed jerseys. You're going to see the soccer balls that have been signed. I've been to Barcelona over 15 times, just to watch my team play. Unless you're a soccer fan, you get so passionate about your team, that's what people want. In this area, you go to any bar or restaurant, they're watching Euro 2012. I just went out for lunch, I watched it with a couple of constituents at the local restaurant right here by my office, yesterday, when Italy played Germany. It brings people together.
There's also the affordability of it. The cheapest ticket for Major League Soccer game is $25, on average. You want to go to any baseball game, and you've got two kids and you're going to take your wife? It's going to cost you like $400. This just makes sense. It's a win-win for Queens.
What's your experience been with MLS as a league? Have you watched games, or been out to Red Bull Arena? I've been to Red Bull Arena. I'm a big Thierry Henry fan - played for Barcelona, very very hard for me not to root for him...Look at [the Red Bulls'] fanbase. Look how great it is. They've got their chants, they've got their cheering on. They've got some real players, like some international folks, but they've also got some young kids. Look at the goalkeeper, Meara. He went, I think, close to 400 minutes without a goal being scored at the beginning of the season. It's just tremendous when you have that.
I go to every international game that comes this way. I'm Ecuadorian, so when Citi Field held their first international game, Ecuador v Greece, I got to be the honorary captain for the Ecuadorian team. That place sold out in a day - 41,000 fans packed the arena, the majority of them Ecuadorian. You can't even sell out that quickly for a Subway Series game. This is what this sport does, it brings people together, it's a great sense of pride and allegiance for your team. When you bring players from different countries that people are from in this area, you're going to have that natural fan base that's just going to gravitate to these things. And it's going to build jobs. It's going to mean to the local economy around the area - bars, restaurants that will be able to host people that come before the games. There's a great concept to this.
Are you looking forward to a potential rivalry with Harrison? Oh, absolutely! I think rivalries are always good. It's what makes the sport more interesting. I'm just looking forward to the ability of making this become a reality.
For the Euro 2012 final (Italy v Spain) this weekend, who do you have to win? Of course, it's Spain! Seven of my Barcelona players are on it.