Last night Community Board 7's Park Committee overwhelmingly voted to approve the USTA's $ 500 million expansion. The approval was conditioned upon the tennis giant establishing a capital fund of $15 million and an annual maintenance fund of $ 300,000 to be used exclusively for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
The board enacted the destroying parks in order to "Save Them" policy last night despite strong community opposition. A flyer was circulated before the meeting reminding the board that is was the government responsibility to fund parks not private business. Apparently they were not swayed.
The Parks Committee voted 8 - 3 in favor of the USTA land grab becoming the first parks committee to give the green light for the controversial project.
For weeks CB 7 leadership have been pressing for the cash for public park land swap deal but this was the first time they put an actual price tag on it. 1st Vice Chairperson Chuck Apelian finally publically put a proposed number on the deal.
Mr. Apelian and CB 7 Chair Eugene Kelty continued to push for extracting funds from the USTA for the park and formed much of the motion.
The motion was approved with various conditions including discount access to USTA facilities for seniors and children.
The oversite of such a fund would include a member of each of the impacted community boards.
Minutes before the vote committee chair Kim O'Hanian said there's no point in voting "no", because Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and City Council Julissa Ferreras are going to vote "yes" anyway.
The prior CB7 parks committee meeting was adjourned without a vote, because the committee specifically wanted to know the dollar value that USTA places on the additional .68 acres of parkland that it is seeking to take and the amount they were will to commit. Once again the board did not receive those answers.
Various Community Board 3 committees voted to reject the USTA's $ 500 million expansion on Tuesday night.
A joint meeting of CB3 committees assigned to the proposel - Parks, Land Use, Transportation and Business Development, voted 11 to 9 recommending no to the full board on the USTA application.
The committees' no vote will be accompanied by an upcoming list of recommendations the CB wants but which the USTA has not committed. The list to going to be drafted between now and the full board meeting on March 14. The majority of committee members felt that a "No" recommendation will be taken more seriously when it came time for the elected officials to negotiate with USTA, than a "Yes" with conditions because the "Yes" is all that is noticed.
It is a violation of the Open Meeting Law to refuse to provide basic information regarding public meetings.
Three people called Community Board 3 to find out whether there was a meeting involving the USTA and whether or not there was going to be a vote. All three were denied that information by CB employees including by the Chair person, Marta Lebreton, according to multiple sources. The board refused to confirm or deny the scheduling of meeting and instead informed people of the March 14th meeting.
One employee said she was forbidden to give out the info and said she was "not allowed to say." This is very disturbing.
Giovanna Reid, the board's District Manager confirmed at 4:59 - 90 minutes prior to the start - that the meeting was happening after receiving additional calls including from other media.
I asked Ms. Reid if they were going to be voting at the meeting and she replied "no," twice.
When I replied that that was not accurate she suddenly changed her story and replied,
"Oh well yes that is the plan, they are going to vote," she said.
It was raised once again, although other committee meetings were listed on the website this one was not.