A Queens-based developer served its controversial plan to revamp a historic Forest Hills site – a plan that some residents are calling an unforced error.
After developer Cord Meyer met with members of the West Side Tennis Club and representatives of Forest Hills Gardens on August 10 to unveil its plan to convert the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium into a condominium, residents and elected officials expressed their disapproval.
In response to those concerns, Cord Meyer President and CEO Sal Panico said that his company is exploring ways to preserve the history of the 15,000-seat former home of the U.S. Open.
“We are just as concerned with the history as they are,” said Panico. “We plan to keep the outer skin entirely; the arches, the eagles, everything. We’ve also been in contact with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) about using plaques to pay homage to past champions.”
Beyond the arches, the interior of the stadium will be gutted in order to make way for 75 luxury condominiums with four floors of condos, one floor for parking and a pool. The West Side Tennis Club, which owns the site, is set to make $9 million in a sale to Cord Meyer.
But some residents feel that $9 million is far too small a figure for a site as historic as the structure now called the West Side Tennis Stadium. For over 90 years, the stadium was home to the U.S. Open and numerous concerts featuring such acts as The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.
John Lovell, a tennis fan and resident of Forest Hills, said that if the owners used a little creativity, they could generate more money while also maintaining the stadium’s intended use.
“They could turn it into a museum and run a shuttle bus here for the people visiting the U.S. Open,” said Lovell, who remembers watching tennis matches in the stadium just three years ago. “They’re in town for the Open and they would love to come here and experience the history of this building.”
Lovell sees the possible repurposing of the structure as a mere quick way to make a buck and doesn’t think that keeping the arches is an acceptable way to preserve one of the oldest structures in Queens.
“I remember how much joy this stadium produced over the years in both music and sports,” he said. “Those ghosts are still singing in the air, but once you put up luxury condos that joy is gone.”
Panico, on the other hand, said that Cord Meyer’s proposal is intended to rejuvenate the dilapidated structure and give residents a modern view on a structure from yesteryear.
“Our proposal enhances the façade back to its original glory,” said Panico. “We would like residents and elected officials alike to keep an open mind and look at the history being incorporated into the design.”