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.”