The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park has been given approval to expand.
The City Council voted 47 to 1 to allow the home of the US Open to tear down two old stadiums that were built for the 1964 World’s Fair and build two new stadiums in their place.
Some park advocates had opposed the USTA’s $500 million expansion plan, but the tennis organization has agreed to make a $10 million donation to the park.
“The USTA stepped up to the plate,” City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras told reporters including WCBS 880′s Alex Silverman.
Ferreras, whose district includes the tennis center, said it’s a first step in creating a public-private partnership to oversee the park, like Central and Prospect Parks have.
“We’re going to be doing a strategic plan how we get more of the patrons to not just stay at the USTA but venture out into Corona and have some good empanadas,” said Ferreras.
In addition, Ferreras said, the USTA agreed to host an annual job fair for Queens residents and to allow area high schools to hold their graduation ceremonies at the center. She said the agreement also includes tennis coaching programs for local children.
“The plan will also improve visitor amenities, upgrade the Arthur Ashe Stadium, including a possible cover which, that one year when it seemed to rain every day of the US Open probably would’ve been useful,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
A USTA statement said the expansion plans include the replacement and renovation of “aging, out-of-date infrastructure and facilities that have reached the end of their useful lives.” The statement quoted USTA executive director Gordon Smith as saying: “We are confident that in partnership with the local Queens communities and elected officials, we will ensure a better Flushing Meadows Corona Park and National Tennis Center.”
The plan allows the 46-acre tennis center to annex a 0.68-acre parcel that is now city parkland in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Community groups that had pressured the USTA for concessions applauded the deal.
“Today’s approval heralds a new era for Flushing Meadows Corona Park,” said Holly Leicht, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks.
The group said in a statement that the USTA “has committed to increase its engagement with the surrounding community as well as its investment in the park.”
Javier Valdes, a member of the Fairness Coalition of Queens, said the agreement “will put Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the surrounding community on a more solid footing for the future.”
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