Tag Archives: Billie Jean King National Tennis Center

Queens Courier reporter challenges Queens 10K


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy NYRR

A challenge of speed this was not.

I quickly realized the New York Road Runners (NYRR) Queens 10K would have talented, serious marathoners when about 9,000 runners gathered at Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Sunday despite a night of rain and threatening gray skies above.

Thankfully the forecasted showers held off, but my finish time of 48:52 shouldn’t be considered fast when the male first-place finisher Ayele Megersa Feisa clocked in at 30:14 minutes and female winner Etaferahu Temesgen finished at 33:16.

I ran in part to see if the NYRR met its self-regulated goal to produce a race that promotes and represents the borough. And kudos to NYRR for keeping the 6.2-mile race in Flushing Meadows for more than two decades as it highlights many of Queens’ jewels on the course.

“The park has so many beautiful iconic structures,” said Peter Ciaccia, NYRR’s president, events and TCS New York City Marathon race director. “To go through the whole course and see the museum, see the Unisphere, run past Citi Field, it’s pretty cool.”


Running around this landmark-filled green space is like a trip to a museum, and this year competitors raced through a transforming park.

We passed the expanding Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and enormous cranes roofing Arthur Ashe Stadium. We saw the New York State Pavilion, which is being rehabilitated, and curved around Meadow Lake, which is being restored.

Then there’s Citi Field, where the New York Mets have been rebuilding for some time, and towards the end, we wrapped around the revitalized Queens Museum, and passed by the Unisphere — the “World’s Borough’s” symbol — before coming to the finish line.

It is undoubtedly a fun race that showcases much of what the borough has to offer, but the truth is the Queens 10K can still do more to accentuate Queens.

Those familiar with Queens know its famous structures well, but for foreigners of the borough, if some signage existed along the course maybe it would help runners develop further interest in them.

And while the Queens 10K serves as the borough’s representative in the Five-Borough Series, I found it weird that Queens — the largest borough by land mass — has the shortest race. I was told for logistical reasons it wouldn’t be a good idea to expand the race in Flushing Meadows. But because it is smaller it is viewed as an easier event for some running clubs.

I had one problem with the actually course road itself: there were crater-size pot holes around the Meadow Lake section that we had to hop and dodge. The Parks Department should take care of that before next year’s event.

Post-race, there was a fun festival with games for children, a raffle and food vendors. It’s a brilliant idea, but while there was an array of food trucks that frequent Manhattan, I was disappointed that Queens’ reputation as being a hot spot for diverse food wasn’t highlighted by the inclusion of more local food businesses.

The 7 train’s reputation for being shoddy was witnessed by many runners though. The Flushing-bound line had delays that prevented some runners from getting to the starting line on time. This isn’t helpful to promote the race or the borough. While the NYRR is not at fault, it did acknowledge the problem and is trying to appease affected runners.

Recognizing that the race could use a tune-up, next year the NYRR will turn to local runners to find ways to add even more Queens spirit to the event.

“There are a couple of running clubs out here in Queens that are interested [in showcasing the borough more],” Ciaccia said, “so I want to work with them over the course of this year and see what tweaks they are interested in.”

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Final steel beam installed for U.S. Open retractable roof atop Arthur Ashe Stadium


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

The final steel beam for the Arthur Ashe Stadium retractable roof at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center was installed on Wednesday in a topping ceremony, culminating more than a decade of studies and planning to cover the U.S. Open’s main court.

The retractable roof is the centerpiece of a more than $500 million project to expand the tennis center, which includes two new stadiums and an expanded south campus. The roof, designed by Rossetti and built by Hunt Construction Group, is the first in the country to be constructed over an existing stadium, officials said.

“If you’re flying into LaGuardia, if you’re riding by on the Grand Central [Parkway], it’s looming, it’s huge, and it is the major piece, but we are doing much, much more,” said Gordon Smith, COO of the United States Tennis Association. “We are completely reimagining the tennis center. We want nothing less than the vision of this facility being the finest tennis venue in the world and the preeminent sports facility in New York City.”

In total, 5,000 tons of steel were used for the roof, which is held up by eight large columns around the 24,000-seat stadium. Because the roof doesn’t sit directly on the stadium, Arthur Ashe will still feel like an outdoor court when it is opened, and at the promenade level fans will still be able to see the Manhattan skyline, according to officials.

During inclement weather, the retractable roof will be able to close in five to seven minutes. The covering for the roof is expected to be installed after this year’s U.S. Open, and the structure will be functional for the 2016 U.S. Open.

In the coming weeks, the giant cranes that were used to build the roof’s frame will be removed and preparation for the 2015 U.S. Open will begin.

Also, four new LED scoreboards will be installed in the stadium and a fabric covering will be placed over part of the stadium to block “strange” shadows from the roof’s steel skeleton.

The USTA completed the first phase of its expansion plan last year, which included new courts 4, 5 and 6, and two-story viewing bleachers that created a three-court stadium viewing experience for fans. The elevated seating area holds more than 1,300 fans, and Court 5 became the U.S. Open’s seventh television court.

The USTA also recently started construction on its new Grandstand Stadium at the south portion of the campus, which will have 8,000 seats, and replace the current 6,000-seat court of the same name that is connected to the Louis Armstrong Stadium. That new Grandstand Stadium will debut in time for the 2016 U.S. Open along with expanded walkways in the south area of the tennis center.

The smaller courts on the south portion of the campus will also be rebuilt next year.

Following the 2016 U.S. Open, the USTA will tear down and starting building a new 14,000-seat Louis Armstrong Stadium. That stadium is currently planned to have a roof as well and is expected to be ready for the 2018 U.S. Open.

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Final steel beam for Arthur Ashe Stadium’s roof to be installed in June


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings and pictures courtesy of USTA

The $550 million project to expand the United States Tennis Association’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will reach a major milestone in a few weeks.

The USTA announced a topping ceremony for the new $100 million retractable roof on the 24,000-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium is set for June 10.

Despite weathering a brutal winter, construction on the roof has been moving according to schedule and the final steel beam with be installed on the roof’s skeleton during the ceremony.

The roof construction will halt shortly thereafter as the staff prepares for this year’s U.S. Open, which will begin on August 31.

The retractable roof is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2016 U.S. Open.

Last year, the USTA completed the first phase of the expansion plan, which included new courts 4, 5 and 6, and two-story viewing bleachers that created a three-court stadium viewing experience for fans. The elevated seating area holds more than 1,300 fans, and Court 5 became the U.S. Open’s seventh television court.

The USTA also recently started construction on its new Grandstand Stadium, which will have 8,000 seats, and replace the current 6,000-seat court of the same name that is connected to the Louis Armstrong Stadium. That new Grandstand Stadium will debut in time for the 2016 U.S. Open along with expanded walkways in the south area of the center.

The smaller courts on the south portion of the campus will also be rebuilt next year.

Following the 2016 U.S. Open, the USTA will tear down and build a new 14,000-seat Louis Armstrong Stadium. That stadium is expected to be ready for the 2018 U.S. Open.

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19th annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day to kick off US Open with concerts, tennis programs


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Dominick Totino

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) is hoping to kick off the US Open with a blast through the 19th annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day event.

Tennis and musical stars will combine on Saturday to bring a day of fun activities and performances, while signaling the start of the two-week Grand Slam tournament in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Every year, Kids’ Day displays some of the music industry’s top up-and-coming performers at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Last year, Ariana Grande and Austin Mahone took part in the event, and past acts include Justin Bieber, Rihanna, the Jonas Brothers, Carly Rae Jepsen, Sean Kingston, Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys.

This year country superstar Hunter Hayes, duo MKTO, girl group McClain, British pop rock band The Vamps, teen sensation Madison Beer and DJ Salerno, among others will headline the list of performers for the event.

1

Besides the concerts, there will be a variety of tennis programs for kids to learn more about the game, such as lessons with professional teachers, special technology to test the speed of kids’ serves and obstacle courses to challenge agility and balance. Fans can also get autographs and watch some pros as they practice for the tournament.

“Not only is Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day presented by Hess a fantastic way to kick off the US Open, but it’s also a great time to encourage youth to be active, play tennis and develop healthy habits,” said USTA Executive Director and COO Gordon Smith. “This annual event continues to bring the entire family together for a fun-filled day of sports and entertainment.”

Michelle

Various celebrities and tennis stars usually host the Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day. First lady Michelle Obama and Serena Williams shared the stage in last year’s event. This year, actors Jeff Sutphen, China Anne McClain and fitness trainer Shaun T will host the event and US Open men’s singles No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic will make an appearance.

For more information on the event, click here.

 

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Serena Williams to host tennis clinic with Queens youngsters


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Dominick Totino

Defending US Open champion Serena Williams is set to serve up a fun clinic for some lucky local kids.

The 17-time Grand Slam singles champion is hosting a youth tennis clinic on Thursday just days before the 2014 US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

About 25 children ages 7 to 12 from the Corona-based Elmcor Youth & Adult Activities Community Center are set to meet and play with Williams.

The clinic is part of the “Returning the Love” initiative, where players reach out to surrounding community organizations both on and off the court.

 

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Cardozo boys and girls tennis teams blown away in finals


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

A year has passed, but the results stayed the same for the Benjamin Cardozo boys and girls tennis teams in the PSAL finals.

For the second year in a row, both teams reached the Division A championship at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing.

And once again, they both lost to the same opponent from last year — Beacon.

The boys team struggled throughout the best of five matches and wasn’t able to capture a single game against Beacon, losing 5-0 at the championship Tuesday.

“It was a good season,” boys coach Peter Ciorciari said. “I have a great bunch of kids.”

Sabrina Xiong

The girls were also dominated (4-1), except for their ace, the PSAL’s top-rated girl tennis player—junior Sabrina Xiong.
Xiong handily defeated her opponent (6-1, 6-2) for the team’s only win.

Despite the team’s loss, Xiong was happy they had another good season and overall finish.

“It’s always just an honor to be in the finals,” Xiong said. “Of course it’s disappointing, because who wants to lose?”

 

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Governor Cuomo approves National Tennis Center expansion in Flushing Meadows


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Dominick Totino

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 gets OK to expand Tennis Center, pledges $10M to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) has agreed to pledge more than $10 million to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park as part of a deal struck with the City Council.

“This deal was a long time coming,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras. “I can say with confidence that we will all benefit from this expansion.”

USTA officials needed the council’s final vote to go through with the $500 million plan to expand the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at the park by 0.68 acres.

They agreed 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 more than $10 million pledged by the USTA would go toward public safety enhancements at the park, Ferreras said.

“There are still details that we are currently working on and we will work on as a community for weeks to come,” she said.

The plans include hiring more local residents and preventing cars from parking on the grass.

But many in the borough remain opposed to developers taking city parkland.

The USTA was not originally required to give back any land lost in the project. But officials ultimately agreed to transfer ownership of two parcels of parkland the USTA has been renting to the Parks Department.

Park advocates criticized the plan as giving back land that was already accessible to the public.

Ferreras said the project would create $750 million in revenue annually and provide thousands of jobs.

 

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Department of City Planning approves National Tennis Center expansions


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

The Department of City Planning approved expansions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Wednesday, May 22, pushing the project another step toward a final green light.

U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) officials want to expand the center’s campus in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park by 0.68 acres, build a new stadium and make renovations. The plan is headed to the City Council for the final vote on the project.

State Senators will not have to vote on the lost green space because the land in question is considered to be of little value.

Expansions at the Tennis Center have been met with opposition, as have two other projects involving the park. USTA was not originally required to give back any land lost in the project. But officials ultimately agreed to transfer ownership of two parcels of parkland USTA has been renting to the Parks Department.
Park advocates criticized the plan as giving back land that was already accessible to the public.

Tennis courts in land swap will still be used by USTA during Open


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Croft

The US Tennis Association (USTA) has agreed to give up some of its rented land in exchange for 0.68 acres the organization has eyed for expanding the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, in an effort to placate critics of the project.

Two pieces of land make up the 1.56 acres that USTA will give back to the NYC Parks Department, according to a news release. One section spanning 0.75 acres is open access area and the remaining 0.81 acres include five tennis courts.

The deal has already drawn criticism from the project’s opponents, who pointed out the parcel of land that includes the courts was already publicly accessible. The only change involved in the deal is that the parks department will run the land.

While USTA will still maintain the courts for Parks, part of the agreement allows the organization to use the facilities during the two-week Open, according to a spokesperson.

Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates, said the deal was null.

“They are swapping parkland that we already have access to for parkland that we already have access to,” he said.
USTA executives spent nearly a year lobbying for expansions on the tennis center’s southern border. The expansions would also relocate a connector road currently situated on land rented by the USTA.

But the status of the parkland, and the fact the USTA was not required to replace any lost, became a hot button issue as the project got approval.

“Understanding that every inch of parkland is precious and after seeking input and recommendations from the local Queens communities and elected officials, the USTA, in consultation with the Parks Department, decided it was in the best interest of all parties to propose a parkland swap,” said tennis center COO Danny Zausner.

The six community boards affected by the expansion were split on the project, but Borough President Helen Marshall ultimately recommended that it move forward.

During her April borough board meeting, which USTA executives attended, Marshall said parkland had to be replaced.

“Today’s announcement is welcome news and shows just how much we value every acre of parkland here in Queens,” Marshall said upon the land swap becoming official. “My support for the USTA proposal was conditioned on the need to replace any alienated land in our borough’s flagship park.”

 

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USTA to give back land for National Tennis Center expansion


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

It’s a land-for-land deal.

The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) has agreed to give up some of its rented land in exchange for the 0.68 acres the organization needs to expand the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Two pieces of land make up the 1.56 acres that USTA will give back to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, according to a news release. The first 0.75 acres is open access area, with the second 0.81 acres is open recreation with five tennis courts.

USTA executives have spent nearly a year lobbying for expansions at the tennis center, which would expand the tennis center’s property to the south. Expansions would also relocate a connector road currently situated on rented land by USTA.

“At the outset of the project, the City suggested that park improvements would result in a more meaningful degree of public benefit than an in-kind replacement for the 0.68 acres that is proposed for alienation,” said Tennis Center COO Danny Zausner. “However, understanding that every inch of parkland is precious and after seeking input and recommendations from the local Queens communities and elected officials, the USTA, in consultation with the Parks Department, decided it was in the best interest of all parties to propose a parkland swap.”

Community boards were split on recommending the project going through, but Borough President Helen Marshall ultimately recommended the expansion carry on.

During her April Borough Board meeting, with USTA executive present, Marshall said parkland had to be replaced, something that was not required of the organization.

“Today’s announcement is welcome news and shows just how much we value every acre of parkland here in Queens,” Marshall said upon today’s announcement. “My support for the USTA proposal was conditioned on the need to replace any alienated land in our borough’s flagship park.”

 

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Borough President backs National Tennis Center expansion


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Borough President Helen Marshall is recommending the city and state go forward with proposed expansions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Marshall’s Borough Board was one councilmember short at the Monday, April 8 meeting to take a vote, thus forcing her to give her ultimate “yes” recommendation.

“While the Borough Board is not voting tonight,” Marshal said. “I am submitting my formal recommendation later this week. And I can tell you that I am insisting that any alienated parkland must be replaced.”

During the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), the six voting Community Boards were split on the project. The three voting Community Boards that voted yes attached conditions mainly focused on the US Tennis Association being part of a conservancy for the park.

The plan, if approved next by the City Council and the state legislature, could begin this fall, according to USTA officials. Roughly 800 full-time construction jobs are expected for Queens workers over the six-year construction period.

While the project will only eat up about 0.68 acres of green space to the south of the Tennis Center, USTA has now promised to replace that land.

Danny Zausner, chief operating officer at the USTA, said lowering the southern border would ease foot traffic during the US Open. The relocated connector road, currently on the property leased to USTA, would now include sidewalks if the plan is approved.

Expansion at the tennis center and USTA’s community outreach have been questioned by some, however.

Councilmember Peter Koo, one of four city lawmakers at the meeting, told Zausner that small business owners in the past said they were rejected when trying to work with USTA to drive tennis fans into Flushing during the US Open.

Zausner, addressing Koo’s questions, said the association had worked with local businesses in surrounding neighborhoods, including Corona and Flushing, and had seen productive economic revenue to those areas.

But while there had been success, with Zausner pointing to the Sheraton LaGuardia East in Downtown Flushing, he said the USTA could further dialogue with more business owners.

“They [patrons] come for the day session, they run out for dinner either on the Corona side or the Flushing side, and then they come back for the night session,” Zausner said after the meeting. “As I mentioned to the councilmember, I think we’re doing a lot already but there’s no question we could be doing more.”

Borough President Helen Marshall delivers her remarks on expansion at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. (THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen)

 

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Op-Ed: What USTA means to me


| oped@queenscourier.com

JenYu

BY JENNIFER YU

I often joke with my parents that I “live at the National Tennis Center (NTC).” That’s because I play tennis there practically every morning before school and also participate in two of their afternoon tennis programs. It’s great because I get to play tennis and compete with kids who have become some of my best friends. Before and after hitting the courts, we all hang out, talk and do our homework together. It’s so much fun.

I’m really hoping that the people of Queens will support the USTA’s plan to make the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park even better than it is now.

The NTC is home to hundreds of community programs like the ones I get to participate in each year. Also, it’s a place where kids like me learn not only the rules of the game but the importance of teamwork, and it’s also where the world’s top players come for the US Open Championships. I hope to one day compete in the US Open.

I first started playing at the NTC when I was eight years old. At the time, I could never have imagined that I would become a competitive and ranked tennis player. I began playing in one of the NTC’s summer camps. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I got training every day. I improved my strokes and made new friends. It was awesome.

I now play in national and regional tournaments and am ranked 12th in the USTA’s Eastern Section’s 12’s age division. I owe a lot of that to the NTC for helping me become the competitive player I am today.

The NTC also helped me grow as a person. Before I began playing tennis at the NTC, I was pretty shy. But after winning some matches on the court, along with daily encouragement and support from my coaches and fellow tennis buddies, my confidence and self-esteem began to soar.

Tennis has become a really important part of my life and the NTC is the place where it all happens. It’s like a second home to me. I’ve met so many great people at the NTC, and I couldn’t be happier. I get to train with the top players in the Eastern Section and receive some of the best coaching in New York. What could be better!

Thanks to the NTC, I can also continue my training during the winter. Through the USTA’s training program (in partnership with the New York Junior Tennis League), competitive players like myself receive coaching, and many program participants go on to earn academic and/or tennis scholarships to college.

I ask the residents of Queens to support the USTA project because the NTC exposes kids like me to the great sport of tennis and also makes it affordable for us.

 

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Votes split on USTA expansion


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of USTA

The votes are in on the much-debated expansions to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and the results are mixed.

Half of the six voting Community Boards are in favor of the US Tennis Association (USTA) moving 0.68 acres out of its current property — so long as the organization meets certain conditions set by each board.

Board 6 voted 21-6 and Board 8 26-8 in favor on Wednesday, March 13; Communty Board 3 voted 33-1 against the next night. The six advisory decisions will now go to Borough President Helen Marshall, who has 60 days to decide on the expansions. Marshall’s decision then goes to the City Council and the City Planning Commission.

Marshall will hold a forum on the plan April 4 at Borough Hall. The Borough Board, led by Marshall, will vote on the plan April 8.

Two boards voted against the proposal last week, one of which could switch to yes if USTA meets nine regulations — similar to those set by other boards — including setting up a conservancy for the park. Community Board 7 voted yes, but with eight conditions, on March 11.

Each board has recommended USTA discount court prices for seniors and children, and invest in the park’s crumbling facilities.

“Community Board review was the first step in a multi-layered governmental review process that also includes the borough president, City Planning, City Council and State Legislature,” said Tennis Center Chief Operating Officer Danny Zausner. “We look forward to continuing our dialogue as we move through the different phases.”

Parkland advocates against the plan, however, say they’re going to continue informing residents of the downside of the plans. “I think the community boards’ vote will have no impact whatsoever on the BP’s vote or the City Council members,” said NYC Park Advocates president Geoffrey Croft. “They seem perfectly willing to give away additional parkland to this private business for concessions.”

 

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State senator wants to landmark Flushing Meadows-Corona Park


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Landmark the park.

That’s what State Senator Tony Avella wants for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to block development in the area.

These include an entertainment center at Willets Point — an area that is technically parkland — along with expansions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and a proposed Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium.

The projects are either inside or on the edge of the park, but only the proposed soccer arena would require replacement parkland to be installed somewhere relatively close to Flushing Meadows. Normal park users, however, will not get the same access to this new park, Avella said, and Flushing Meadows would become overcrowded.

“Normally when you have some alienation, [and] you have some land coming in, you have to replace parkland of equal acreage some place everyone can agree upon. You may actually replace the amount of acreage, but the number of people who use it would be significantly less.”

Landmarking includes a review of the park for its historical and cultural value. The independent commission will look at these and decide whether or not it goes to a full vote.

“We put together what I think are very significant reasons why it should be done,” said Avella. “The historic aspect of the park in terms of two Worlds Fairs, housing the United Nations for a period of time and the fact that it is the borough park.

All three projects require a vote from the City Council, and then approval from the state because green space will be lost. Avella said should the bill go to the state level — in order to approve any removed parkland — he would push his colleagues in the chamber to vote down the expansions.

Risa Heller, spokesperson for MLS, said the league wanted to help refurbish the park and have a long working relationship with the parks department.

“MLS is deeply committed the long term health and vibrancy of FMCP which is why we will make a significant investment in the park in addition to replacing community fields,” she said. “We plan to be a long term partner for the park and plan to do everything we can to ensure it meets the needs of the surrounding communities.”

Spokespersons for USTA and the Willets project were reached for comment, but were not able to respond by press time.

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