Short Of Quorum, Boro Bd. Delays Decision
A decision by the Queens Borough Board on the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) expansion plan at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was delayed on Monday, Apr. 8, as not enough board members were present at the panel’s monthly meeting to vote on the matter.
Borough President Helen Marshall took the occasion to express her support for the expansion.
During the session at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, Marshall said the USTA has made good on promises to offer tennis instruction and programs to local youth, adding that the center has been a major enhancement for the borough.
“It’s not much land,” Marshall said. “I can tell you that I’m insisting that any alienated property must be replaced.”
The proposed plan has been met with some contention from residents and local civic groups, because it would alienate an additional 0.68 acres to move practice courts 30 feet south and expand an interior walkway.
USTA National Tennis Center Executive Director Dan Zausner told the board about the center’s planned expansion and several renovation projects that would happen within the center’s current footprint. Among the projects are the reconstruction of the Louis Armstrong Stadium and the conversion of two parking lots into two- and three-level parking garages.
The renovations would double the USTA’s current $500 million investment in the park and create 800 full time jobs over a six-year construction period, Zausner said.
While the vote didn’t happen, some officials had a chance to voice their concerns.
City Council Member Peter Koo told Zausner that business owners around the tennis center say they don’t get promotional support from the USTA or see much additional business during the U.S. Open, which the center hosts every year and which the USTA cites as a serious boon for the local economy.
Koo suggested the USTA offer promotional opportunities inside the stadium to local restaurants during high-profile events.
“They have so many hot dog stands. What about a Chinese food stand?” he said.
“I will tell you that we have not done a good enough job reaching out to all the businesses in downtown Flushing,” Zausner responded, adding the tennis center has garnered lauds from the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel and the Flushing Business Improvement District.
“There will not be outright ‘no’s,'” he said. “There will be a conversation, and we will figure out what we can do together.”
Koo stated he would support the expansion if he could be assured the USTA would reach out to area businesses.
Board 6 Chairperson Joseph Hennessy noted that his board voted for the project, adding the committee wants to see improvements to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Revenue the tennis center generates for the city goes into its general fund; Hennessy requested that some go directly to improving the park.
“It would be beneficial if … some of the money [was] earmarked, definitely, for Flushing Meadows-that’s what we need,” he said.
Kim Ohanian, chair of Board 7’s Parks Committee who represented Board 7 Chair Eugene Kelty at the Apr. 8 meeting, noted her board voted ‘yes,’ but stipulated the city must “ensure that a significant amount of money went to maintaining the park.”
As the Times Newsweekly went to press, representatives from Marshall’s office said it is still deciding how to proceed with holding a vote, but Marshall will issue her formal recomendation today or tomorrow.
“It will, no doubt, have conditions,” representatives said.