In preparation for the recent Community Board 7 meeting about the U. S. Tennis Association expansion plans, I had read several news articles and opinion letters in local papers. Most opinion letters condemned the plan.
There were horror stories floating around out there about the USTA cutting down 400 trees, how kids who play there would suffer due to a loss of park space, and how the plan would set a bad precedent for future takeovers. I had been asked to join stop-the-expansion groups who promoted fear based on not one-inch of parkland be taken away. Save our parks! Halt the giveaway!
After seeing the presentation given by the USTA at the board meeting, I was no longer afraid of any consequences to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The USTA plan calls for rebuilding some of their current stadium areas, and building a new small stadium on the southwestern corner of their leased 42-acre property. To do so, they want to move some tennis courts there to accommodate a larger walkway area between stadiums.
The tennis court move would only involve a 20-30 foot strip of land which they are seeking to acquire for the expansion. This strip of land, only .68 acres, or about one-half a city block, is currently an uncared for pathway in disrepair next to the Grand Central Parkway.
They say that only about 40 trees would be cut down by the move, and 40 or more trees would be replanted when a new nicer walkway is completed there. Photo renditions showed a much improved and more attractive area.
Several of the speakers opposed were very emotional about not giving one inch of parkland away to anybody. Some even drew lines in the sand as if the park decision was equal to that of those who crossed over the line in the life-or-death battle of the Alamo in Texas. Those in favor spoke highly about the sport of tennis and how the community benefits from the USTA center being there.
It all made good theater. But the truth is that the USTA is not asking for valuable “parkland” at all. What we are talking about here is “pathway/roadway” abutting land. It may belong to the park, but is it not used for anything except as a pedestrian and bike path. It probably should have been given to the USTA years ago when they first moved there.
No soccer fields, baseball fields, or play area would be impacted by the USTA expansion whatsoever. The pathway is not a play area, nor should anybody play there. No real recreation land is being ceded by the lease expansion request.
We in Flushing have gained national recognition due to the annual US Open tennis tournament held here. When we travel and we tell others that we’re from “Flushing,” most say “Oh, that’s where the US Open is held.”
CB7 made the correct decision by voting “yes” on the plan, and thus being able to put in some recommendations in hopes the USTA would listen, and provide some money for the maintenance of the rest of the park which is direly in need of funding and renovation.
I ask those who opposed this plan so vehemently to save their arguments about precious parkland being taken away for when the proposed soccer stadium is reviewed. That would involve the taking of recreational parkland. It is then when we should have the fight about keeping precious parkland in the hands of the parks.