The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) now has the governor’s blessing to expand its prized center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday he signed legislation allowing the city to give the USTA 0.68 acres of parkland to extend the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The association’s $500 million plans include replacing the Louis Armstrong Stadium, building a new grandstand, adding two parking garages and a new row of tennis courts.
It also wants to expand public plazas and promenades to accommodate up to 10,000 more fans daily during US Open tournaments, which are held every year in August and September.
“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.
“New York is proud to showcase the biggest players in tennis at this annual event,” he continued, “and I am committed to making this facility the best it can be to attract and host more events like the US Open.”
The governor’s approval follows the City Council’s green light in late July after the USTA agreed to pledge more than $10 million to the park.
The deal also called for the USTA to commit to ongoing community outreach programs, create an annual job fair for Queens residents and give 5,000 free Arthur Ashe Day tickets to Queens kids.
“The USTA is proud of its rich history in New York, which dates back to 1915,” said USTA President Dave Haggerty. “As the world’s largest annual sporting event, the US Open is proud to bring worldwide attention to the city and state that it calls home and is pleased that this legislation will allow the longstanding tradition to continue.”
As previously promised, the association will also give the city’s Parks Department back 1.56 acres of its leased land for public use. However, park advocates criticized the swap as giving back some parts of land that were already accessible to the public.
Alfredo Centola, a founding member of the Save Flushing Meadows-Corona Park advocacy group, said the governor’s approval “sets an extremely bad precedent of what’s to come.”
“While we are extremely disappointed, we’re not surprised that our government once again defies and denies the will of the people and rules in favor of large for-profit businesses,” Centola said. “This is exactly what New York has become, unfortunately.”
During the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), the six voting community boards affected by the expansion were split on the project. Borough President Helen Marshall in April ultimately recommended the project go forward.
Cuomo said the expansion, over 10 years, would create 800 construction jobs and 776 other full-time jobs for Queens residents.
Lawmakers said the project would give fans a better experience and the city’s economy a major boost.
The 2010 US Open, officials say, generated an estimated $756 million.
“The US Open is the premier sporting event in Queens, when the eyes of the world are on us,” said Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry. “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.”
USTA officials said the project still needs approval from the Parks Department and Public Design Commission before permit applications are submitted to the city’s Department of Buildings.
National Tennis Center CEO Danny Zausner said he hopes the project will begin this winter and end by 2018.
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- USTA to give back land for National Tennis Center expansion