The proposal consists of a .94-acre expansion, .68 acres of which will utilize current park space.
The Fairness Coalition of Queens, a number of elected officials and community leaders released an in-depth report entitled “Double Fault” to take a look at the negative impacts of a possible expansion. One of these included the addition of a 20-foot-high, eight-megawatt diesel-fuel power plant in the park.
While the group opposes the expansion, they are primarily hopeful that the USTA will better engage the community to ensure the replacement of any lost park space before moving forward.
Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras said that while the community is opposed to losing parkland, they are still willing to work with the USTA if their concerns are met.
“I stand with the community today to let the USTA know that they have to change their ways,” Ferreras said. “That means the USTA replaces every inch of parkland they take for expansion. That also means the USTA helps maintain the park they’ve been allowed to use all these years.”
Residents claim the tennis facility is not conducive to the needs of the neighborhood and that most community members cannot afford to attend matches or pay the hourly rates on the public courts.
Joel Martinez of East Elmhurst spoke at the group’s rally at Make the Road New York (MRNY) headquarters at 92-10 Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights last Friday.
He recalled a time during tournament play when he was on routine jogs in the park and was yelled at by police and USTA security guards for crossing over what he described as an ever-changing barrier.
“I felt like it was a question of classism, that they just don’t want to have poor people there during their event,” he said. “Flushing Meadows is our park, and it should be accessible to the public.”
Elected officials claim a majority of high-salary positions with the organization are only offered at their corporate offices in Westchester, while city taxpayers have forked over $322 million in city bonds over the years for USTA construction.
The new report also shows the USTA earns 85 percent ($200 million) of its annual revenue from events in Queens parks.
“It is outrageous that the USTA is taking New York City parkland and tax breaks, and moving all their top jobs to Westchester County,” Councilman Daniel Dromm said. “Why doesn’t the Bloomberg administration guarantee that the jobs our tax dollars are subsidizing are based in New York City? I see no reason for us to be investing city tax dollars for jobs in Westchester County.”
Dromm recalled his concern over the USTA’s community involvement when he and Ferreras first sat on the council's Parks Committee together.
“From the very first hearing of the Parks Committee that I ever went to, when I was elected as a City Council member, council member Ferreras was questioning the USTA,” he said, long before the recent issues with the expansion were brought to the forefront. “We have a history of questioning what the USTA has done for the community.”