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Rendering courtesy USTA
By Joe Anuta

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation last Friday officially leasing about two-thirds of an acre of Flushing Meadows Corona Park to the United States Tennis Association to accommodate renovations at the US Open site.

“As the site of the US Open, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center brings thousands of fans to New York every year, boosting our tourism industry and spurring local economic activity,” Cuomo said in a statement. “New York is proud to showcase the biggest players in tennis at this annual event, and I am committed to making this facility the best it can be to attract and host more events like the US Open.”

The expansion plan, which will accommodate the construction of a new stadium, the replacement of another and will improve viewing platforms, food court options and retail, needed state approval due to its parkland location, and generated much controversy on its way to the governor’s desk.

Detractors of the project did not think the USTA contributed adequately to upkeep at the park, although the opposition was splintered between those who wanted to reach a compromise and those who wanted to block the project altogether.

City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) eventually secured $10 million in capital funds from the tennis association for improvements to the park and hoped to start a privately funded conservancy to oversee Flushing Meadows.

On a state level, state Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) sponsored the bill that Cuomo eventually signed. He had stipulated that the leased parkland be replaced.

This was technically carried out when the USTA deeded over some tennis courts and a grassy area back to the city Parks Department, but critics derided the move as a stunt to only replace lost parkland on paper while not actually creating any additional greenspace.

“The US Open is the premier sporting event in Queens, when the eyes of the world are on us,” Aubry said in a statement. “This expansion will secure the excitement and tradition of world-class tennis in our community and state for both today’s tennis fans and those of the future.”

The USTA also lies in the district of state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who did not sponsor the bill in the Senate.

Instead, that piece of legislation, which was penned by the Bloomberg administration, was sponsored by the Committee on Rules. This method is often used for unpopular bills no one wants to claim, according to Albany insiders, who said they are often derisively referred to as sponsored by “Mr. Rules.”

Cuomo’s signature was the last bureaucratic hurdle for the project, which will now include a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium, the USTA recently announced.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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