BY TERENCE M. CULLEN AND MELISSA CHAN
Six community boards are lobbing back and forth on approving the proposed expansion of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The boards surrounding the park are required to vote on the .68 acres lost in the U.S. Tennis Association’s (USTA) plan to expand in the park. Their recommendations, which are solely advisory, then go to the Borough President, the City Council and the Department of City Planning.
So far, two community boards have voted against the expansion, and one has opted in favor of it.
Community Board 9 voted 22-20 against the plan, with one abstention, after a lengthy debate at its March 13 meeting. Board member Alex Blenkinsopp said he thought many voted against it to send a message that parkland should not be given up for expansion.
“I believe the majority of Community Board 9 voted the way we did because we’re concerned about the future of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park,” he said. “This would have set a worrying precedent. That land, once surrendered, will never come back. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want the National Tennis Center to live within its current footprint.”
Community Board 4 also voted down the expansion. However, it said it would approve it if the USTA meets nine requests, according to District Manager Christian Cassagnol. Some of the resolutions call for better park security, a $15 million trust fund exclusively for the park, and a $500,000 per year maintenance fund that would be overseen by members of different community boards.
Community Board 7 voted 30-6 in favor of the expansion, but members also had nine conditions. The board asked the USTA to establish a $15 million capital endowment fund and an annual $300,000 expense fund for sole Flushing Meadows-Corona Park maintenance.
All damaged trees, they said, must also be replaced within the park, and there must be substantial discount programs for seniors and children living nearby.
Community Board 7 also insisted National Anthem tryouts should be held in Queens. The USTA must also work with the Department of Parks to clean and maintain the property and mitigate traffic concerns.
“The reason why we voted [yes with conditions] is because we found out that even if they didn’t want to take our conditions, they came back to the table to talk to us,” said Community Board 7 Chair Eugene Kelty. “They had a meeting in our office. They asked us if they could come in and explain what was happening after the fact. They didn’t have to, but they did.”
Community Boards 3, 6 and 8 were scheduled to vote after The Courier went to press.