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Club may find suitor for its tennis stadium

By Steve Mosco

Residents living within walking distance of the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium want the structure to remain, but they want it fixed up and they would rather not have concerts on the list of events.

“It just looks worse and worse every year,” said Claire Greenfeld, who has lived on the same block near the stadium for more than 15 years. “I don’t want it torn down, but I also don’t want to look at it this way anymore.”

Last week, a source said condos could soon replace the courts at the historic stadium, a change that Greenfeld said most residents would be against.

According to a source close to the situation who asked not to be identified, the West Side Tennis Club has singled out a developer’s plan from a pool of four proposals to build low-rise condos on some of the clay courts within the stadium. The club accepted request for proposals for projects on the grounds last year, with the stipulation that any developer would have to keep the storied stadium’s existing façade.

Any deal agreed upon by the developer and the stadium committee would be subject to a two-thirds vote approval by club members and the Forest Hills Gardens Corp. would also have to OK the deal, the source said.

The West Side Tennis Club did not return requests for comment and the Forest Hills Gardens Corp. chose not to comment at this time on any possible deal.

Club officials had reached a deal with developer Cord Meyer in 2010 to demolish the stadium and build condos, but the deal failed to receive the necessary two-thirds majority vote from club members. The club elected a new president, Roland Meier, seven months ago. Meier was previously a member of the club for 22 years.

Michael Perlman, president of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council, said his organization would not support any plan that would raze the existing stadium.

“Rego-Forest Preservation Council supports the preservation and restoration of the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, and we won’t back any plan that features alterations and demolition,” he said. “We haven’t seen the new low-rise condo plan, so we are unsure if we would support that.”

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission last year considered landmarking the stadium, which played host to the first US Open in 1923, but upkeep for the arena would be too costly to return its to landmark status. The commission cited water damage and crumbling concrete as the main reasons for the structure’s ineligibility.

The stadium hosted the US Open until 1978, when the event shifted to Flushing Meadows Corona Park and during its history, the stadium held concerts by iconic musical acts The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and many others.

“There is too much history here to just knock it down and build condos,” said Greenfeld.. “But I don’t like the idea of concerts here in a residential area like this.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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