BY MELISSA CHAN & TERENCE M. CULLEN
While tennis reps continue lobbying for expansion in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, residents from around the borough came out in full force against the proposal Monday, February 11 at Community Board 7’s monthly meeting.
“Our parks were developed for the use of the public. It’s where the citizens can gather with their families and their neighbors to enjoy the beauty of nature,” said John Kelly, a Flushing resident who lives by Kissena Park. “These people […] look at the green spaces and have desires to make a buck for themselves at our expense.”
Unites States Tennis Association (USTA) officials have proposed building a new stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The project includes moving a connector road from the park within the center’s leased land and several courts south in order to ease foot traffic. It would also take away .68 acres more parkland than what is in USTA’s updated 1993 lease.
Several local residents said the land grab would be a steal of taxpayer property and money. “There is no reason to be intimidated by the USTA,” said resident Ben Haber. “There is no justification for the USTA’s request other than they want to make more money.”
Haber said sports arenas do little to boost the city’s economy. The taking, he said, would be as “worthless as a dead tennis ball.”
The development would also add to the air and noise population that plagues the borough, residents said.
“All this overbuilding is an unnecessary and unacceptable takeaway from the Flushing community,” said Elizabeth Lee of Flushing. “We need parks, not more stadiums, not more malls.”
But USTA officials and union workers spoke to the benefits of the project at a recent Community Board 9 meeting. They said thousands of union construction jobs would be created and an additional 10,000 tennis fans a day would visit when the U.S. Open is in session.
Jack Leone, a union electrical worker, said he has done work regularly at the Tennis Center for the past eight years. “We live in a tough economy,” Leone said. “So I am grateful for the regular work I get at the [National Tennis Center], which has a long history of hiring local union workers.”
Ted Newkirk, a project manager for union plumbers and steamfitters, said further expansions and maintenance thereafter would continue to provide jobs. “The National Tennis Center has a long history of hiring local union workers,” he said.