In preparation for the recent Community Board 7 meeting about the U.S. Tennis Association expansion plans, I had read several news articles and opinion letters in local papers. Most letters condemned the plan. There were horror stories floating around about the United States Tennis Association cutting down 400 trees, how kids who play there would suffer due to lost park space and how the plan would set a bad precedent for future takeovers. I had been asked to join stop-the-expansion groups who promoted fear: Save our parks! Halt the giveaway!
After seeing the presentation given by the USTA at the board meeting, I’m no longer afraid of any consequences to Flushing Meadows Park. The USTA plan calls for rebuilding and a new small stadium on a corner of their currently leased 42-acre property. They want to move some tennis courts to accommodate a larger walkway area between stadiums.
The move would only involve a 20- to 30-foot strip of land, currently a pathway in disrepair next to the Grand Central Parkway. They say only about 40 trees would be cut down, and 40 or more would be replanted. Renderings show a much improved area.
Several of the speakers opposed were very emotional about not giving one inch of parkland away. Some even drew lines in the sand as if the decision was equal to the life-or-death battle of the Alamo in Texas. Those in favor spoke highly about tennis and how the community benefits from the USTA.
It all made good theater. But the truth is the Tennis Association is not asking for valuable “parkland” at all. The strip is nothing but a pedestrian and bike path. It probably should have been given to the USTA years ago.
We in Flushing have gained national recognition due to the annual US Open tennis tournament held here. When we travel and we tell others we’re from Flushing, most say “Oh, that’s where the US Open is held.” CB 7 made the correct decision by voting yes on the plan, and thus being able to put in some recommendations in hopes the USTA would listen, and provide some money for the maintenance of the rest of the park, which is direly in need of funding and renovation.
I ask those who opposed this plan so vehemently to save their arguments for the proposed soccer stadium. That would involve the taking of recreational parkland. It is then when we should have the fight about keeping precious parkland in the hands of the parks.