USTA Strikes Deal On Flushing Meadows Plan
The United States Tennis Association has reached a deal with the city Tuesday, May 6, to hand over two plots of park land in exchange for the .68 acres it wants to expand the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
The move comes after expansion plans drew ire from residents and park activists. Three out of six affected community boards voted to block the construction, and all but one attached riders to their votes that requested the replacement of alienated park land.
“At the outset of the project, the City suggested that park improvements would result in a more meaningful degree of public benefit than an in-kind replacement for the 0.68 acres that is proposed for alienation,” said Daniel Zausner, COO of the National Tennis Center. “However, understanding that every inch of park land is precious and after seeking input and recommendations from the local Queens communities and elected officials, the USTA, in consultation with the Parks Department, decided it was in the best interest of all parties to propose a park land swap.”
The replacement land totals 1.56 acres. A little under half the land is open space, and five public tennis courts comprise the remainder.
Park advocates charged the swap is largely symbolic.
The space the USTA has ceded is already public land for the 50 weeks a year the U.S. Open is not at the tennis center, according to Geoffrey Croft, who runs the non-profit park watchdog group NYC Park Advocates. Croft called the concession a “shell game” via his blog “A Walk in the Park.”
Politicians and city staff quoted in the USTA’s press release seem more optimistic.
“The proposed replacement parkland will provide a benefit to park visitors and help to ensure that Flushing Meadows-Corona Park continues to serve as a world stage for the US Open tournament, one of New York City’s premier sporting and cultural events,” said Parks Commissioner Veronica White.
“Today’s announcement is welcome news and shows just how much we value every acre of parkland here in Queens,” said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.
In an Apr. 11 letter to the City Council supporting the expansion, Marshall stated replaceing alienated land was a condition for her approval.
The borough board gathered on Apr. 8 to vote on the matter but did not reach a quorum because there were not enough Council Members present. Three days later, Marshall’s letter was in the mail.
“It is the right thing to do,” said City Council Member Julissa Ferreras of the USTA’s concession. Ferrares represents Corona and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
“As the City Council begins to consider this proposal, we are ready to work with the USTA to address our community’s other major concerns,” she said.