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NYC Officials Form Nonprofit To Benefit Iconic Queens Park

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio joined New York City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland in Queens Monday to announce a new initiative to improve the borough's iconic Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Alliance will serve as a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing general upkeep, innovation and event planning for the 900-acre space.

"In our parks our children learn so much. They learn about nature, they learn teamwork through playing sports," de Blasio said.

Flushing Meadows, former home of the historical World's Fair, is now home to a variety of sports fields, a golf course, the Queens Zoo, the Queens Botanical Garden and the New York Hall of Science. It is also home to the famed Arthur Ashe Stadium, home of the U.S. Open -- with Citi Field right down the block. 

Ferreras-Copeland recalled memories of her childhood as she stood in front of the park's iconic unisphere, sharing a story of an exhibit she saw at the former New York City Pavilion -- now the Queens Museum.

"This is the museum where I went to see the panorama, where I first realized that my community is bigger than the corner I grew up on," Ferreras-Copeland said.

The alliance mixes leaders from different businesses and organizations from a variety of industries and park officials, led by Flushing Meadows Corona Park Administrator Janice Melnick. A team of community leaders from around the borough will also be formed in to work alongside the organization.

"We're mixing public funds with other funds to achieve the maximum impact," de Blasio said.

The United States Tennis Association will contribute $350,000 to help fund the organization for the first three years and another $200,000 to help support the alliance for the next two decades.

"So when I challenged myself to start this conservancy, I'm doing it for all those New Yorkers, those that live across the street, those that live in Jackson Heights, those that live as far as Far Rockaway," Ferreras-Copeland said.

But the announcement did not meet with across-the-board approval. New York City Parks Advocates President Geoffrey Croft called it a "sham."

"This entire Alliance initiative and model is based on businesses commercially exploiting Flushing Meadows Corona Park including taking parkland away from the public," Croft said in a statement. "Instead of the City properly investing in the park as they are legally required to do the administration is championing this plan in exchange for money. They should be ashamed of themselves. This is certainly not 'progressive.'"

Selections for the alliance's community board with begin later this year.

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