The $500 million expansion plan has received criticism from local community members because it proposes developing .68 acres of parkland.
The USTA has been presenting the proposal to local community boards, and Community Board 9 discussed the proposal this week before taking its own vote. The vote is merely advisory.
One board member said she is afraid the expansion will set a precedent, especially with Major League Soccer’s proposal to build a brand new stadium in the park.
“There are real threats to the park,” she said.
Jose Lopez, deputy director of the Parks Department’s Parklands Division, said receiving monetary compensation instead of a land swap is common in some cases. He said the money would be put to better use than the minimal amount of parkland.
“We have plenty of cases in which we have received monetary compensation,” he said. “The park needs a lot of improvements.”
In response, one board member said, “God isn’t making anymore parkland.”
An argument broke out among the board when Lopez was allowed to address the board outside the public forum setting, while the opposition couldn’t. But board chair Andrea Crawford said that the plan directly effects the Parks Department and USTA, so their representatives should be allowed to speak, not the opposition.
She gave the example of a business being allowed to address the board when applying for a liquor license.
“I would say that the future of Flushing Meadows Park is not akin to a liquor license,” said board member Alexander Blenkinsopp.
Not all of the board members were against the plan. Etienne Adorno focused on the economic possibilities.
“They are an economic driver,” Adorno said. “I happen to know a lot of people in the communities of Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park who benefit greatly from the U.S. open every year. I think we need to look at the greater good here.”
In the end, the board voted down the proposal, 22-20, with one abstention.