Save FMCP encourages the public to testify against the USTA expansion at the City Planning Commission hearing this Wednesday, April 24th at 10am at 22 Reade Street in Manhattan. The official announcement is below:
USTA BILLIE JEAN KING TENNIS CENTER
CDs 3, 4, & 6-9 C 130155 PPQ
IN THE MATTER OF an application submitted by the NYC Department of Parks and
Recreation (DPR) and the USTA National Tennis Center Inc., pursuant to Section 197-c of the
New York City Charter, for the disposition of a lease of city-owned property to the USTA
National Tennis Center Inc. located northerly of United Nations Avenue North, between
Meridian Road, and Path of Americas (Block 2018, p/o Lot 1) within Flushing Meadows-Corona
(On April 10, 2013, Cal. No. 6, the Commission scheduled April 24, 2013 for a public hearing
which has been duly advertised.)
Close the hearing.
On Wednesday, April 24, 2013, at 10:00 a.m., in Spector Hall, at the Department of City
Planning, 22 Reade Street, in Lower Manhattan, a public hearing is being held by the
Department of Parks and Recreation in conjunction with the above ULURP hearing to
receive comments related to a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) concerning a
disposition of non-residential City-owned land at the USTA Billie Jean King National
Tennis Center (NTC), located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. The NTC is
located on a portion of Queens Block 2018, Lot 1, on park land leased by The City of New
York Department of Parks and Recreation to USTA National Tennis Center, Incorporated
(USTA). The leased site is bounded to the north by the railway tracks of Long Island 31
Railroad (LIRR)’s Port Washington line; United Nations Avenue North to the south; the
Passarelle Building and Path of the Americas to the east; and Grand Central Parkway to
the west. The proposed actions would facilitate a proposal to improve and expand USTA
facilities, collectively known as the NTC Strategic Vision. To accommodate the proposed
project, up to 0.94 acres of land would be added to the NTC site, including up to 0.68 acres
of park land that would be alienated. Written comments on the DEIS are requested and
would be received and considered by the Lead Agency through Monday, May 6, 2013.
This hearing is being held pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act
(SEQRA) and City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR), CEQR No. 12DPR005Q.
Printed in the Queens Courier, 4/13/2013
BY GEOFFREY CROFT
In a recent op-ed (“A new alliance for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park,” March 10) Councilmember Julissa Ferreras argues for the need to create a new nonprofit alliance dedicated for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (FMCP).
The alliance would collect money from the USTA and other businesses using the park and spend it exclusively on the park. Agreeing to a deal that puts money into a park fund in exchange for a yes vote, along with a few other “concessions” is a misguided policy that would allow the USTA to expand and set the stage for more businesses to try and take more public parkland.
That is exactly what is not needed for the park.
It is the city’s legal responsibility to properly fund our public parks, not that of private businesses.
Make no mistake this is NOT like the Central Park Conservancy or the Prospect Park Alliance model as she has attempted to claim. There is a huge difference between receiving philanthropic contributions from civic-minded people seeking nothing in return and establishing a fund explicitly created for extracting money from businesses exploiting the park.
She said she is doing this to ”to help protect this irreplaceable park.” The park does not need this type of “protection.”
A detailed plan on how this alliance model could work has already been drawn up. It was devised with the help of a Parks Department partner group New Yorkers for Parks, in concert with the councilmember, working behind closed doors.
Despite repeated requests Ferreras has refused to voluntarily provide a copy of this plan. For the first time in 15 years I’ve had to resort to FOILing a councilmember. This is not a good sign.
These deals only weaken communities and make it easier for the next encroachment. They also allow the very people whose job it is to properly fund and protect our public spaces off the hook.
The councilmember was correct, though, when she said the park has not received the attention and resources it deserves.
Whose fault is that? Does anyone think our elected officials are doing their jobs when FMCP has only 14 employees for a 1,200-acre park? That’s disgraceful.
Each year our elected officials allocate a fraction of the funds desperately needed to properly maintain, operate, secure, and program our 29,000 acres of public parks.
This year is no different. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s current $70.1 billion proposed budget allocates just $ 283.2 million or o.4 % in tax levy funds for parks.
Over the last 40 years no other city agency has lost a greater percentage of its workforce than the Parks Department. This happens year after because the public does NOT demand accountability.
The city continues to try and abdicate its responsibilities by entering in these public/private agreements that officials are not only allowing but actively encouraging. They are increasingly resorting to these pay-to-play funding schemes. This welfare mentality has to stop.
These deals hand over enormous power and decision making authority to these groups with little transparency and accountability on what is supposed to be public land.
We need our elected officials instead to allocate proper resources for our parks; it’s what the public pays taxes for.
Until communities begin to stand together and demand accountability from officials and “so called” park advocacy groups, the public can expect more of the same – our parks being sold out.
Geoffrey Croft is the founder and president of NYC Park Advocates, a non-profit watchdog group dedicated to improving public parks. He is also a founding member of Save Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a coalition of community-based civic and environmental groups opposed to the commercial encroachment of FMCP.
There will be a Community Board 7 full board meeting on Monday night, which will offer an opportunity to address the board about Willets Point / Willets West mall, prior to committee meetings starting. Please note that Willets Point is not on the agenda, but you may still speak about it during the public participation period. (The project is expected to be on the agenda for the May 13th meeting, when you may also sign up to speak.)
What: Community Board 7 full board meeting
Date: Monday, April 8th
Meeting Time: 7:00pm
Public participation Time: 9:30pm (but may start earlier)
Place: Union Plaza Care Center, 33-23 Union Street, Flushing, NY 11354
Sign up to speak upon entering.
The first (and perhaps only) committee meeting on the matter will happen this Thursday. There will be no public participation, but you may observe the discussion about the Willets Point project, which is on the agenda.
What: Community Board 7 buildings and zoning committee hearing
Date: Thursday, April 11th
Place: Union Plaza Care Center, 33-23 Union Street, Flushing, NY 11354
For observation only - no testimony accepted.
The application is being portrayed as a "minor amendment to the previously-approved project" -- but it obviously is not. The effect of the amendment is to nearly double the size of the project from 62 acres to 108.9 acres, and to prioritize the construction of a previously undisclosed 1.4 million square foot mall on public parkland that is presently a Citi Field parking lot. If you thought the original Willets Point development was a monstrosity, this is no comparison …
The Queens Borough President and Community Board were promised a hand in selecting the developer for the project, but they were not consulted before Sterling/Related was chosen by the Bloomberg administration. If they had been involved, perhaps a proposal that did not take public parkland would have been selected.
It also is not likely that the City Council will call up the project, hear testimony and publicly debate it. Again, the project is being framed as just a "minor amendment to the previously-approved project," but the previously approved plan did not involve a mall, the Mets parking lot, or mapped parkland.
On Monday April 8th, the Queens Borough Board will vote on the USTA application. However, the Queens Borough Board has not held any public hearing on this application. Council members who would vote as Queens Borough Board members have no Borough Board record on which to rely, or to base their decision. Moreover, our own interpretation of the ULURP rules is that a Borough Board may ONLY submit a recommendation to City Planning Commission if the Borough Board first holds a public hearing. In the alternative, a Borough Board may elect to waive its right to submit a recommendation.
The relevant ULURP rule is here (Section 2-05).
As we interpret it, the first sentence sets forth two clear alternatives: "… an affected borough board may conduct a public hearing on an application AND submit a written recommendation on such application or any community board recommendations" OR "waive the right to submit a recommendation to the Commission" (emphases added). The presence of the word "and" in the first quoted section indicates that the two actions (conducting a public hearing AND submitting a written recommendation) go together. There is no authorization to submit a recommendation without holding the public hearing.
Via telephone last Friday, staff of the Office of the Queens Borough President stated that it is not required that the Borough Board hold a public hearing -- that the Borough Board "may" do so, but is not obligated. It was then pointed out that the very same text that says that they "may" hold a hearing continues "and submit a recommendation" to CPC -- in other words, that both events (the hearing and the recommendation) are connected. The word "AND" means that you do one, AND the other. You cannot split off the recommendation from the hearing (e.g., do the former but not the latter). They responded that it's always done this way, and that we should speak w/counsel to QBP, Hugh Weinberg.
That Council members who are on the Borough Board have heard nothing whatsoever directly from the public, and there is NO RECORD within the Borough Board -- other than USTA's presentation -- is a basis for any Borough Board vote. Even if the ULURP rules do not require a public hearing (and we believe they obviously do), there is no dispute that the rules allow the Borough Board to hold a public hearing -- and the Borough Board is not doing so. That amounts to a pointless exclusion of the public from Borough Board decision-making.
We are aware that, when a Borough Board authorizes disposition of City-owner property under City Charter section 384(b)(4), there is no requirement for a public hearing. But what is happening in the case of USTA is different, as the Borough Board is getting involved under the ULURP process -- and the ULURP rules, unlike 384(b)(4), apparently require a public hearing prior to any recommendation. The Office of the Queens Borough President may be confusing the circumstances of 384(b)(4) with those of ULURP, to which different rules apply.
The Parks Department has made arrangements to name the trail around Willow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park after our late friend and leader Pat Dolan - The Pat Dolan Trail. Please join us 11:00am on April 21 at the Al Mauro Playground, located at Park Drive East and 73rd Terrace (east side of park, south of Jewel Avenue) for the dedication.
As you know FMCP was one of Pat's many lifetime priorities and QCC and the FMCP Conservancy are thrilled that Parks has decided to honor her commitment and hard work. Willow Lake is a wilderness area of the park. I once spotted a grey tailed fox while walking with a park ranger along the trail.
I hope for a great turnout of civic leaders, electeds and friends for this great tribute.
By the way, there will be a cleanup and planting at the Al Mauro Playgound beginning at 9am until the dedication. I have word that the spring weather will be spectacular. Put on your coveralls and join in. Please see the FMCP Conservancy flyer for additional details about the cleanup as well as Earth Day events on April 11 and a Bird Walk/Nature Walk at the Pat Dolan Trail with PArks Rangers, sponsired by FMCP Conservancy on April 28.
I hope to see you all on April 10 at the Borough Presidents Candidates Forum at 7pm at the Maple Grove Center, 127-15 Kew Gardens Road, Kew Gardens. All six candidates have confirmed and we are keeping in close contact with them.
Rich Hellenbrecht, President
Queens Civic Congress
USTA Chief Operating Officer - Daniel Zausner. The USTA refuses to make its proposal publicly available.
Chief-of-Staff to the Borough President Alex Rosa (L) and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall (R).
Save FMCP member Phil Konigsberg testifies.
SaveFMCP co-founder Ben Haber testifies.
SaveFMCP co-founder Robert Loscalzo testifies.
The bottom line is that the USTA does not require more land to build new stadiums. They just want it. In light of this, why would any elected official vote to approve alienation of parkland? As the last paragraph of Robert's testimony reads:
"This USTA proposal, like the two others that impinge on our park, are efforts to close deals on parkland while the Bloomberg administration is still around to sign the papers. Please do right by the people of Queens: Tell USTA to renovate within its existing space, and reject its self-serving application to expand its size and its impacts."
We are dedicated to stopping private development of Queens' flagship public park.