By Anna Gustafson
U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) on Wednesday urged West Side Tennis Club members to include elected officials and community members in their plans for the club’s stadium that is for sale.
The three legislators gathered outside the stadium Wednesday afternoon and said they have felt left out of the discussion about the future of the iconic, but now dilapidated, stadium that has not been used for about 17 years.
“We love that the tennis club is our neighbor,” Weiner said. “In the midst of rural Queens, a stone’s throw from the Long Island Expressway, we have grass tennis courts. We have a place that has history that goes back generations. As there are conversations about how to deal with the stadium, the community needs to have a voice.”
The lawmakers, along with Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills), sent a letter Wednesday to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission asking that city officials study whether the stadium that housed the U.S. Open for more than 60 years should be protected under landmark status.
“The Forest Hills community deserves to know whether landmarking parts or all of the West Side Tennis Stadium are a possibility,” the letter states. “We feel strongly that the commission should conduct a study as to whether landmarking the West Side Tennis Stadium would be in the best interest of the future of the structure.”
The West Side Tennis Club members are expected to vote on Sept. 23 on the sale of the stadium. Sources have said the club wants to sell it because it is operating in the red.
The Forest Hills-based Cord Meyer Development Company hopes to transform the 2.5 acres on which the stadium is located into luxury apartments and town homes, according to plans presented by company officials to club members Tuesday night.
Cord Meyer representatives said they have plans to build about 75 units on five floors at the stadium site.
“The question and answer session was constructive for both the members and Cord Meyer. We are looking forward to the opportunity of continuing the dialogue with West Side Tennis and Forest Hills Gardens,” Cord Meyer President Sal Panico said of Tuesday’s meeting.
Koslowitz criticized the proposal and said “it didn’t look that nice to me.”
Bobbie Jaray, who lives across the street from the stadium, also said she and her neighbors do not want to see condominiums replace the stadium.
“I want the stadium as a landmark,” said Jaray, who has lived in the neighborhood for 56 years. “I’d hate to see it torn down.”
The tennis club was founded at the end of the 19th century and the 15,000-seat stadium began hosting the US Open around 1915. The stadium became too small for the US Open and the event moved to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the late 1970s.
“Queens has the fewest landmarks in New York City other than Staten Island,” Stavisky said. “It’s time to preserve the rich cultural traditions that happen here.”
Besides hosting tennis matches, the stadium has been the site of a number of concerts, including The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and the Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense” concert film. Portions of the 2001 Wes Anderson film “The Royal Tenenbaums” were shot there.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.