Forest Hills community discusses concert issues
by Chase Collum
Apr 30, 2014 | 2458 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
James Van Westering speaks out at the town hall meeting on Monday night.
James Van Westering speaks out at the town hall meeting on Monday night.
WSTC president Roland Meier
WSTC president Roland Meier
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz
With the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium preparing to host its first summer concert series in decades, West Side Tennis Club President Roland Meier hosted a community meeting on Monday, April 28 to address concerns that arose out of a sold-out Mumford & Sons concert last fall.

“It’s the first time that the WSTC is in front of the community,” Meier said to introduce the meeting. He later explained, “We decided to host this meeting on the advice of Council Member Karen Koslowitz.”

The stadium has seen better days, and while efforts are underway to spruce up the grounds, there is a lot of work left to complete. In fact, that is one of the reasons the club decided it was time to consider bringing the music back.

“In 2013, we paid a half million dollars in taxes. Just to open our doors costs us $1,300 per day,” Meier explained. “It is tough for the membership to carry this financial burden.”

In the aftermath of the Mumford & Sons concert, the stadium received a lashing on blogs and other Internet forums for being self-serving and using concert events to make money at the neighborhood’s expense, though Meier felt these criticisms are misguided.

“I would say 20 years ago the club didn’t really care about the neighborhood; the club really did whatever the club wanted to do. But I think that has changed,” Meier said. “I don’t think the club is getting rich off the neighborhood. I don’t think that’s a fair statement.”

Mike Luba of Madison House Presents, who is heading up booking and promotion of the concerts at Forest Hills Stadium, said that he and his colleagues are working to ensure that the upcoming concerts have the least possible negative affect on the surrounding community.

“We got 95 percent of the way there, we almost pulled it off perfect,” Luba said, announcing several changes that he thinks will get them the rest of the way there. “We’re putting in a permanent stage, putting in new seats, new handrails. I think we’re going that have it flawless both inside the building and outside.“

Another resident asked Luba how the stadium would be handling restroom issues such as those that arose at the Mumford show, asking, “What are you going to do restrooms, especially for the residents in the area who had to suffer through urinations on their lawns?”

Luba replied, “We’ve been hyper-conscious of that from day one. We’re going to be all porta-potties. The vision is, we’re going to make it as fully realized as possible.”

Chris Collett of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce urged his neighbors to be open-minded about the impending concert series.

“We go through this all the time in the neighborhood where somebody gets successful and then everyone starts complaining because people are parking in front of their business and homes,” Collett said. “So what we really want is a quiet, no-successful-business community, is that what we’re saying here?”

Local resident James Van Westering suggested that the community may want to consider enlisting the services of a company like that of Fred Kent and the Project for Public Spaces, which operates out of Manhattan.

“They’re known worldwide for taking communities like us who are at the stage we’re at now and helping develop a plan.”

Luba pointed out that while there were several valid concerns that arose out of the Mumford concert, from a police perspective the event was a resounding success.

“There were no arrests, at the Mumford show, and there were no complaints. I have complete faith in the 112th here,” Luba said.

Heidi Chain, president of the 112th Precinct Community Council echoed Luba’s faith that the 112th will be able to handle the crowds brought on by concerts at the stadium.

“For the businesses in Forest Hills, our restaurants, our shopping, everything else, I think this will help the stores in our community, and that it’s very good as far as that’s concerned,” Chain said. “Do I expect everything to go smoothly? Yes. I have absolute faith that the 112th will do what they’re charged to do. I have no concern with the number of people coming because they can handle it.”

Asked whether the WSTC is working on any other near-future additions to its programming, Meier said that for the moment, the club is taking it slow and working on what is right in front of them.

“Right now, we’re trying to focus on one step at a time,” Meier said. “Obviously, we want to get tennis back, but our objective at this time is really to succesffuly handle one or two concerts, make sure the neighborhood is okay with it and take it from there. We really want to do it right; we don’t want to fall on our faces by rushing things and doing too many things. We’d like to be around for a while.”

While the full summer concert schedule has yet to be announced, Luba confirmed on Tuesday morning that Seattle indie rockers Modest Mouse would be performing at the stadium on August 9.

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