USTA application approved by CB 6 1

Community Board 6 Second Vice Chairman Steven Goldberg, at podium, and Chairman Joseph Hennessy address board members on the benefits of permitting the United States Tennis Association to use two-thirds of an acre of parkland.

The proposal to alienate two-thirds of an acre of Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the United States Tennis Association’s $500 million construction project was approved by Community Board 6 during its March meeting.

The joint-application submitted by the USTA and Parks Department seeks to add a strip of city-owned property to the 46 acres already leased by the group.

The slice of land would allow the tennis association to move its existing practice courts 30 feet to accommodate a new stadium that would house the US Open.

Normally when land is removed from a park, it is to be replaced with a plot of equivalent size; however, due to the size of the land, the USTA is proposing not to replace the .68 acre but to pay the city outright instead.

“The proposed acquisition of parkland will allow the USTA to attract an additional 100,000 people each year and receive substantial income,” CB 6 Second Vice Chairman Steven Goldberg said.

Board members in support of the proposal said approving the alienation could lead to additional funding for all of Flushing Meadows Park.

Some cited parks such as Central Park and Prospect Park, both considered the “jewels” of their respected boroughs, as models for what the Queens park could be.

“The reason that Central Park and Prospect Park have come back is not because of New York City funding, but it’s because of a private conservancy to help clean the park and plant the trees,” CB 6 Chairman Joseph Hennessy said. “I want this park to be the jewel of Queens, but we need private money to get this project started. We have talked about private sources in the past and USTA is a private source.”

The application was approved with a final vote tally of 21-6.

In addition to approving the USTA application, CB 6, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, reviewed and voted on a resolution drafted by board members, laying out conditions that the USTA would be asked to abide by.

Those conditions include an annual donation from the USTA towards the upkeep of Flushing Meadows Park, hiring union trade employees, replacing any trees that are removed or damaged during construction and including CB 6 in a committee with community board representatives to advise on decision making.

The resolution was passed 25-1 but has not been presented to the USTA yet.

“The city is going to be getting a lot of money out of this deal and it’s probably not going into Queens,” Hennessy said. “You have to take care of the other boroughs. If you take a look at this park today, it’s not a true park at the moment, it’s a plot of land just sitting there.”

When members of the public were invited to speak, many of them disagreed with the board’s decision.

“Approving the USTA proposal will only encourage more privatization of our parks which will only weaken our communities,” Geoffrey Croft of the NYC Park Advocates said.

In addition to CB 6, CB 7 and CB 8 have approved the USTA proposal. It was rejected by CB 3, CB 4 and CB 9.

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