By putting a price tag on NYC’s parks ($15 million for an unclear promise of “capital improvements”), Community Board 7 has effectively helped set a precedent that may endanger all parkland in New York City.
The board’s failure to represent the opinion of the residents only compounds the astonishing Parks Department betrayal of its public trust to preserve and protect the parkland by cosponsoring the USTA’s ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) application. Developers, their lawyers, and their lobbyists will all be watching the outcome of this decision closely, slavering over their own potential stake to privatize what belongs to us all, and avail themselves of open green space that is vital to public health and well-being.
The USTA claims it is a responsible community partner, but the evidence does not speak favorably to this. This newspaper featured community activists trying to raise a paltry $2,500 for advocacy efforts in preserving the NY State Pavilion (“Pavilion not ready for its closeup yet,” March 7, multiple editions). Having been in Flushing Meadows for over 30 years, what has the USTA, with its revenues just last year of $275 million, done to preserve its own backyard and help this cause? Quite as little or nothing as it has done to preserve the West Side Tennis Club’s Forest Hills tennis stadium, which sits in disrepair, and faced a potential razing for the sake of condo overdevelopment.
The USTA left Forest Hills when, according to its own website (usta.com/About-USTA/National-Tennis-Center/Informa tion/14189_History_of_the_USTA_Billie_Jean_King_National_Tennis_Center/) its next president glimpsed Louis Armstrong Stadium from an airplane. What a fitting image this serves for the out-of-touch and emotionally distant apathy current USTA officials show to this day for the community around the park.
At the March 11 public hearing, one official tacitly admitted that the organization has ignored the Flushing Business Improvement District’s overtures for discussion on how to equitably support local business. In 1993, the USTA promised it would seek no more land to build after doubling its footprint. That promise has proved to be worth less than the breath used to utter it. Quite simply, how can the USTA be trusted?
You can expect that, as it did after building out Forest Hills, the USTA will abandon Flushing Meadows Corona Park once its popularity grows beyond what the park can handle. I’m certain the same excuses for economic competitiveness will be cited. By then, the damage will have been long done: mature parkland taken away at no cost and without replacement from a vibrant, working-class community — parkland which will not be replaced — and an awful precedent set to take parkland elsewhere. History is not kind to those who forget its lessons, nor to the memory of legislators who permit to be desecrated what should be held dear.
The writer is a candidate for City Council in the 29th District.