Last night, the Community Board 7 parks committee voted 8 - 3 in favor of the USTA land grab. More on this to come.
We'll find out tonight...
Civic leader Ben Haber testifies during a meeting of Queens Community Board 7 held on February 11, 2013, in opposition to the proposed expansion of the United States Tennis Association in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Ben had been at the forefront of the unsuccessful fight to keep the USTA out of the park in the 1990s. Here's one of his many letters to the editor from that time. What's going on today is a rehash of the same old story of parkland alienation.
Ben Haber testifies at CB8 Parks Committee
Committee cites ability of USTA to renovate within its existing footprint, and failure of USTA to specify any dollar value of give-backs
Last night, Ben Haber, Joseph Ardizzone and Robert LoScalzo of Save FMCP (among others) attended the CB8 committee meeting re: the proposed USTA expansion.
After hearing the USTA presentation and the public testimony, the committee questioned USTA and discussed. The ideas expressed included that USTA is perfectly capable of renovating its facilities within its existing footprint, without further encroachment into parkland; and that if USTA would be given additional parkland, it has committed to absolutely nothing in exchange. A committee member plainly told USTA:
In a very exciting turn of events, the roll was called and THE VOTE WAS EVENLY SPLIT -- 4 in favor and 4 opposed. There was no further motion.
CB8 will hold a full board meeting on March 13, at which the public will have another opportunity to speak; and then the full board will vote.
Save FMCP needs you to volunteer to attend and speak at one or more of the following Community Board hearings:
February 26, 2013
7:30PM; advance sign-up required by calling office no later than 5PM day of hearing;
188-11 Hillside Avenue
Hollis, NY 11423
March 11, 2013
7:00PM; (public hearing is scheduled to start
at 8:50PM but could start earlier)Union Plaza Care Center
33-23 Union Street
Flushing, NY 11354
March 12, 2013
(likely at 7:00PM although most board meetings start at 7:30PM)
VFW Post #150
51-11 108th Street
Corona, NY 11368
March 14, 2013
Elmcor Youth & Adult Activities
107-20 Northern Boulevard
Corona, New York 11368
Please send us a copy of your testimony and we will post it on our website.
In a previous entry, we highlighted the text from the Fairness Coalition' handout "10 reasons to vote NO on the USTA expansion." Number 2 was the following:
From the Fairness Coalition handout:
10 reasons to vote NO on the USTA expansion
1) USTA Taking Valuable Parkland Without Replacement.
Seeking to evade a long held legal precedent, the USTA will not replace any of the parkland that will be lost and then permanently turned over to USTA control.
(Crains “Tennis expansion in Queens nets locals a royal headache” by Annie Karni 12/16/12)
2) Power Plant in the Park?
The plan calls for building a dirty diesel fuel power plant to be built inside the park. Hidden inside the most recent DEIS report, the USTA seeks to build a 8 Megawatt, 20 foot high diesel-fueled power plant. Surrounding communities already suffer from air quality and asthma rates at epidemic levels. This power plant will emit a massive amount of air pollution into the park and surrounding communities. (page 11-17 DEIS Jan 2013)
3) USTA Moves Jobs to Westchester County.
NYC taxpayers have provided $322,025,000 in City Bonds for USTA construction - why hasn’t the Bloomberg Administration guaranteed that USTA base its headquarters in Queens? The full-time, high salary jobs for USTA executives are all based in Westchester. Why are we giving taxpayer funds and more parkland to a private corporation that won’t even keep jobs in our community?
(Internal Revenue Service Form 990 2010)
4) Destroying Precious Green Space.
The USTA destroys entire sections of the park by encouraging cars to drive and park on grass. Can you imagine cars parking on the Great Lawn in Central Park? (page 10-5 DEIS Jan 2013)
The USTA proposal will result in destroying 400 mature trees including state-listed endangered species willow oak trees. (Page S-8 DEIS Jan 2013; Page S-23DEIS Jan 2013)
5) The USTA is a Bad Neighbor.
USTA blocks community soccer leagues from playing during the US Open. (El Diario “Fuerade Juego” 8/17/12)
The USTA dominates the park with car and truck traffic which restricts community access and enjoyment. The courts are overpriced and there is very little community outreach and involvement. The expansion will result in the removal of a bike lane that is a critical link for cyclists to enter the park. (Figure S-6 DEIS Jan 2013)
6) USTA expansion plan would add 10,000 Spectators everyday during the US Open.
This will induce significantly more traffic congestion, overwhelm local parking, and strain subways with more overcrowding. (Page S-4 DEIS Jan 2013)
7) The USTA is not ‘open to the public’.
It has 8 foot high steel gates around the perimeter that are padlocked to keep the community out of the facility.There is no signage indicating that the USTA site is free and open to the public. The hourly court rental rates are more expensive than any public courts in NYC. The USTA has not provided the local neighborhoods with any grants in recent years. And finally, USTA seeks to build even more retail space on site which will negatively impact local small businesses
by preventing spectators from going into the community.
(Capital New York “Tennis Expansion Requires Tricky Definition of Public” by Dana Rubenstein 1/22/13; Page S-5 DEIS Jan 2013)
8) Just One of Three Major Proposals.
The Bloomberg Administration does not have a plan for Flushing Meadows-CoronaPark. They are three separate development projects, which are in direct conflict with each other, and each will
destroy parkland and reduce property values in Queens. This administration has failed to properly maintain the park and has abandoned even trying to adequate resources for it.
(Figure S-7 DEIS Jan 2013)
9) Labor Violations.
The New York Times reports a class action lawsuit in Federal Court against the USTA for
labor violations and failure to pay overtime to workers.
(New York Times “For Courtside Officials, a Pay Fight Resonates” by John Martin 1/17/13)
10) Flooding Problems.
The park is a natural wetlands that should be protected and enhanced to restore its ability to absorb flooding from storms. If more parkland is lost here, it will result in more flooding
in the surrounding residential communities.
(page 7-8 DEIS Jan 2013; Figure S-7DEIS Jan 2013)
This was from a 1994 article in the Queens Tribune.
• The USTA says it needs extra money to prevent big name players from defecting to places like Dubai.
According to the USTA, the rationale behind the proposed expansion (land grab) is that it is necessary because it would allow the USTA to pay top players more money in order to prevent them from going to up-and-coming foreign venues/tournaments like Dubai, the United Arab Emirates state located in the Persian Gulf. The USTA has repeatedly said the extra money generated would help ensure the U.S. Open would not lose the marquee players to other markets that could be more lucrative.
While this may be important to this private business - which is being allowed to run on public parkland - it is NOT of importance to those who use the park.
• When the USTA was allowed to double its parkland holdings in the 1990's, they said they would NOT seek any more incursions into the park.
The current USTA plan would:
• Bring an additional 10,000 daily spectators
• Remove more than 400 trees
• Demolish existing stadiums and build a replacement them with 15,000 and 8,000-seat stadiums
• Construct two new garages including a 423-space, 2-level garage, and a 270-space, 3-level garage
• The outdoor tennis courts which the pay-to-play USTA charges up to $32 an hour to use as compared to the City which charges $200 for an entire seven month season and outdoor courts are free for the remaining 5 months of the year including the courts nearby in the Flushing Meadows Park. Free.
The USTA made $ 275 million last year according from the public park land according to USTA Chief Operating Officer Daniel Zausner while giving just $ 2.5 million back to the city according to their license agreement.
• The USTA prohibits Soccer from being played in the park when the US Open is underway.
• There are already so many cars coming to the park during the US Open that patrons of CitiField and the Open are forced to park on the grass.
There are two other commercial projects currently proposed for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, including a 1.4 million sq. ft mall and a new stadium for Major League Soccer. Together, these projects will alienate 56 acres of parkland.
In 1951, the area the USTA currently occupies was parkland in the truest sense of the word.
In the 1990s, the City handed over a whole bunch of parkland to the USTA to expand their tennis complex.
It just kept getting larger and larger. This shot is from 2006.
And this one is from 2008.
Here's what the site looks like today. Note the gorgeous ring of mature trees on the bottom left.
If the USTA's plans are approved, this is how much real estate they will control. 400+ trees will die. Insane, isn't it?
We are dedicated to stopping private development of Queens' flagship public park.