NYCFC Willets Point Stadium to Revolutionize Soccer in NYC, says C.O.O.

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

 

Jennifer O’Sullivan grew up in an extensively athletic home, spearheaded by her sports-loving father, and played three sports in her home of Clinton, New Jersey.

Soccer was not one of those sports.

However, O’Sullivan now finds herself sitting in a position that can change Major League Soccer (MLS) at its core — to her, there is no better place to do it than Queens.

“The diversity of Queens as a borough cannot be denied,” O’Sullivan, 48, said over a phone interview. “It’s a true example of how the global game of soccer can really be used as a catalyst to bring people together culturally within the community, but also an economic boom for the borough and the city.”

As the C.O.O/Chief Legal & Administrative Officer at New York City Football Club (NYCFC), O’Sullivan has prioritized helping her club find a permanent place in Queens. The Willets Point Stadium, announced by Mayor Adams on Nov. 16, is a privately financed facility set to offer 2,500 affordable homes, a 25,000 seat stadium and a 250-room hotel. It’s expected to be completed in 2024.

Jen O’Sullivan. Photo: Matthew McDermott

O’Sullivan joined NYCFC in April 2020. Her role broadly encompasses running the operational and administrative areas of the business — human resources, IT infrastructure and facilities, navigating some of the contractual relationships with partners and working closely with NYCFC II, the reserve team and minor league affiliate of NYCFC.

Currently, NYCFC has no permanent place to call home. The team has been bouncing around from venue to venue — including Yankees Stadium — for their matches, but with a permanent stadium for their matches, they will be able to focus on the fan experience, and developing the talent of their organization, which is coming off the heels of a championship.

“I think in New York, you have this melting pot of people, many of whom came from nationalities and other areas of the world where the global game of soccer is just a way of life,” O’Sullivan said. “We’re really trying to identify people who have this strong love and passion for the game and say, ‘It’s okay for you to have your Mexican home team that you follow, but we can be your time here in New York,’”

MLS is a relatively young league in the United States, founded in 1993. NYCFC joined the league eight years ago, and in O’Sullivan’s three years with the organization, she has seen the program grow throughout the five boroughs, with a youth program or organization in approximately 70% of the city. In her time within the industry, she has seen soccer grow in New York City exponentially — instead of wearing NBA jerseys exclusively, her children and her friends are seen boasting soccer jerseys.

The United States hosting the 2024 World Cups, along with the men’s and women’s teams performing well in their performances in the past world cup, will likely add to this excitement around the sport. She hopes that this, plus the hard work of NYCFC to be involved in the community and be a presence beyond on the field, will help turn the occasional fan to an avid one.This involvement includes adding programs to schools and distributing food.

O’Sullivan hopes that the next step for NYCFC will be to add a women’s team and a women’s academy to complement their male teams, as “we see real opportunity in the women’s game as well.”

Despite being so young, she doesn’t want NYCFC to settle in their victory with the stadium — as C.O.O, she expects to continue growing the organization as forward as she can.

“We’re really doing everything we can do to ensure that this stadium journey and the stadium process is successful. Not just for us, but for part of the larger development of Willets Point and the borough of Queens, and growing out what those community initiatives look like,” she said. “If we can be a real catalyst for growth and change on the women’s side of the game, we would welcome that opportunity as well.”

How Did We Get Here?

Saturday’s Smokeshop Murder Leaves Community in Shock

By Ed Wendell

It was the early 1980s when VCRs – video cassette recorders – became affordable and suddenly everyone had one.

Now you didn’t have to miss your favorite television programs, you could record them. At the same time it created a demand for renting movies to watch at home and as a result video stores began popping up all over.

The Video Connection. Captain Video. Video Maniacs. They were everywhere. It was a fun and exciting time and no one was hurt. For sure, no one was ever killed over a VHS tape.

Four decades later a new market has emerged with stores popping up all over the place. Smoke Palace. Kush Kings. Leaf Connection. As a result, because of the way New York mishandled it, a market for violent crime and mayhem was created.

This past Saturday afternoon, while most of us were out enjoying the day, a young man was shot and killed during a robbery of a smoke shop on Jamaica Avenue in Richmond Hill. He was just 20 years old, his entire life ahead of him, ended violently because of the gross stupidity of New York.

How did we get here?

After many years of debate, New York made it legal to possess and smoke and grow marijuana in your home. But they dragged their heels on rolling out licenses and as a result today there are only 3 places in New York where you can purchase pot legally, all within a few blocks of each other in Manhattan.

As a result, entrepreneurs across the city began opening up shops to capture a share of the market and the city made the decision to leave them be. As a result we have shops all over selling pot openly and illegally. And because they’re selling it illegally, it needs to remain a cash business.

To recap, because it’s really hard to believe how stupid New York handled this, they took an underground business that was connected to the criminal world; they dropped businesses flush with cash and drugs in our laps; and they told the police to stand down.

What did they expect would happen? Of course all of these stores would become rich targets for robbery. Thugs know these stores have drugs and cash and if they get robbed they can’t really go to the police. These robberies are becoming more frequent and brazen and violent and what happened Saturday is the result of stupid arrogant thinking on the part of New York State.

Last year, we took a wee trip to visit a friend in Massachusetts. As soon as we crossed the state line we saw a half-dozen shops open for business, but the difference was that they were all licensed and all operating legally.

We stopped into one of them on the way home and it was as safe an environment as you could ask for. Upon entering the store we were in a lobby where a receptionist asked to see some ID. We gave her our drivers licenses and they scanned them in.

We were buzzed through a door and entered a long hallway where we were buzzed in through another door. Once inside, we were greeted by name by a young man with an iPad who walked us around and answered any questions we had.

You would tell him what you wanted and he would enter it on the iPad and when you were done, you went to the counter and paid for it by credit card and walked out with a nice bag. It was all very well organized and very, very safe.

Compared to Massachusetts, our state is the wild, wild, west. We have created a rich environment for crime and violence and over time, the toll on our communities will surely mount.

This was so badly handled that I don’t think that any of us expect that New York will work out a solution to this massive problem that they’ve created any time soon.
There’s really only one explanation for why the State of New York decided to roll out this law this way – they must have been high. And being high and stupid is a deadly combination.

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