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Queens Chronicle

USTA expansion tops talk at CB 9

Plan gets key endorsement from Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz

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Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:49 am, Thu Feb 21, 2013.

The expansion of the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park dominated Tuesday’s meeting of Community Board 9 at the Kew Gardens Community Center, as board members unloaded a barrage of questions to the Parks Department and United States Tennis Association about the plan.

Though very little of the park sits in CB 9, which includes Woodhaven, Ozone Park, Kew Gardens and Richmond Hill, board members expressed concern about the potential effects of the project on the park itself, especially when considered alongside the proposed soccer stadium and and shopping mall plan near Citi Field. The USTA is seeking to expand its presence by taking less than an acre of parkland near the Unisphere.

“Somewhere along the line, they’re going to have to put a moratorium on building in Flushing Meadows,” said CB 9 member Maria Thomson. “Enough is enough.”

Discussion of the plan came after a lengthy public hearing in which a few local residents expressed their opposition to the idea, while others, including union workers and members of a local tennis program, pushed the importance of the plan to the economy and the sport.

Most notably, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) threw her support behind the idea at the meeting, becoming the first Queens council member to speak openly in favor of it.

“I believe this project is good for our economy,” she said. “And our economy needs help.”

Jack Friedman, executive vice president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, also endorsed the plan at the meeting.

“This project will bring good-paying union jobs to Queens,” Friedman said. He added that the USTA allowed the Chamber to put up a kiosk at last year’s US Open promoting Queens businesses.

But one local resident, Benjamin Haber, asked the board to oppose the expansion, arguing that the US Open often leads to more traffic in the community and said it offered little benefit. He also noted USTA moved its headquarters from Manhattan to Westchester County.

“So much for loyalty to New York City,” he said.

Geoffrey Croft of NYC Parks Advocates said the USTA had promised in the 1990s to not expand their campus onto more parkland, a concern shared by CB 9 member Alexander Blenkinsopp.

“How are we sure you won’t come back and ask for more land in the future?” Blenkinsopp asked.

Joshua Laird, assistant commissioner for planning and parkland at the Parks Department, said the plan would require 0.68 acre of what is currently mapped as parkland between the tennis center and the Unisphere. Laird said many of the trees that will be removed for the project may be replanted elsewhere in the park.

“There are ways for us to transplant the trees so we don’t lose them,” he said.

The board is expected to vote on the proposal at their March meeting.

Elsewhere during the meeting, CB 9 unanimously approved a speed bump along Abington Road in Kew Gardens. The bump will be placed at the discretion of the NYC Department of Transportation somewhere along Abington Road between Lefferts Boulevard and Brevoort Street near the Kew Gardens Synagogue.

The board also approved the annual Wonderful Woodhaven Street Fair along Jamaica Avenue, which will be held on Oct. 20

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