On April 4th, 2013, Borough President Helen Marshall held a land use meeting as part of the ULURP for the USTA expansion. State Senator Tony Avella was the only elected official to send a representative to testify. However, Tony Avella's representative was denied the opportunity to speak. The Senator's written testimony against the USTA expansion as well as his letter to the Borough President protesting the treatment of his staff members is presented below.
Members of the public speak at Queens Community Board 7 in opposition to the proposed expansion of the United States Tennis Association's facility onto additional parkland within Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg also supports two other proposed projects that would sacrifice parkland: A proposed Major League Soccer stadium to be constructed on 13 acres of Flushing Meadows Corona Park; and a 1,400,000 square foot mall to be constructed on 30+ acres of Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
As a 7-year old I went to the World’s Fair. I have pictures of me with my family at various locations and have recently located the exact spots where I walked as a child with my parents. I’m now 56. As a father, I bring my daughter to the park to enjoy the open space, trees, and quiet areas this park of ours has to offer. We take pictures playing in the fields and running with our dog. My daughter said to me when she grows up, she wants to find the spots she walked with me and hold it as a memory to be passed on to her children.
But I fear she may not have the chance if this park, the only spacious park in Queens, is taken away and turned into a selfish commercial zone to benefit unions, real estate moguls and our elected officials, all in the name of what’s best for the people. The people of this borough deserve the right to have a park we can be proud of. Instead, there are visitors that take pictures of the Unisphere and wonder why the rusted, decaying relics of the NYS Pavilion is allowed to crumble to a purposeful state to be eventually torn down. The Pavilion is a diamond waiting to attract the masses for years to come. Rebuild it, charge admission and you will see a return on investment.
This park should be a gem, a bright shiny area to attract people from all over to enjoy much like Prospect Park and Central Park, rich in history and as glamorous and proud as any part of our great city. I implore you to save our park. Not part it out as a land grab with give back spots scattered throughout Queens. But save this oasis among the crowded housing. Keep it whole, allow us to have a place to go and enjoy for our children and for generations to come.
Why is New Yorkers for Parks organization irresponsibly taking the position that it would be perfectly acceptable for the USTA to steal more parkland so long as it sets up a “park maintenance fund” for Flushing Meadows?
Instead, they should be advocating for adequate resources to be allocated to the park in the City budget. The current fraction of 1 percent allocated toward parks citywide is woefully inadequate, and the City is required by the City Charter to maintain its property.
Genuine park activists would not be advocating for the USTA to take and replace parkland since the obvious thing to be demanding here is that the City not allow this private business to expand within the park.
So as not to mislead the public, they may want to rename their group “New Yorkers for the Privatization of Parks.” Positions such as that of this organization are the reason why we have such a disparity in park conditions in the first place.
Co-founder, Coalition to Save Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
Report of Monday's CB7 Parks Committee meeting courtesy of A Walk in the Park:
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.
CB3's Parks Committee voted differently, but only after holding a meeting that they planned to keep closed to the public. Again, from A Walk in the Park:
Various Community Board 3 committees voted to reject the USTA's $ 500 million expansion on Tuesday night.
The City is desperate to get this plan passed by the Community Boards it oversees. It will do anything - including violating the Open Meetings Law - to do so. We're on it.
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.
We are dedicated to stopping private development of Queens' flagship public park.