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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Times
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

City Council Approves Tennis Stadium Plan in Queens

Ending a yearlong battle over a move to expand the home of theUnited States Open, the City Council approved a plan on Wednesday to allow the use of parkland to replace two of three tennis stadiums and add 7,000 seats along with parking and walkways.

The approval, by a 47-to-1 vote, came after the United States Tennis Association, which runs the Open, agreed to help set up an alliance for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, to commit $10 million for park maintenance and programming, to return to the city more land than it is taking and to increase its community outreach.

“I am proud that my community has gotten engaged and demanded a voice in this process,” said Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, a Democrat whose district includes the park and who led negotiations with the tennis association. “I look forward to working with the U.S.T.A. to improve the park for everyone. This deal was a long time coming, and I can say with confidence that we will all benefit from this expansion.”

As part of the agreement, which was reached on Wednesday morning, the tennis association will also create an annual job fair for Queens residents and try to help local businesses benefit from the tournament. It will also help develop programs, like a community festival during the Open and low-cost tennis coaching for area families.

“We are very pleased that the City Council passed the legislation,” David A. Haggerty, president of the association, said in a statement. He said the updates and improvements to the center would help “residents, visitors and professional and recreational tennis players while also preserving the U.S. Open Tennis Championships as a world renowned event.”

Community groups and advocates for the park had fought the association’s expansion plan for nearly a year. The disagreement stemmed from the association’s desire to add 0.68 acres of land to its 42-acre parcel. (The association plans to turn over 1.56 acres of its own land to the park in exchange.)

The community has been in a tug of war with groups that are seeking to develop the park’s open spaces. Plans for a Major League Soccer stadium and a shopping mall there helped prompt the uproar over the tennis association’s plan, said James Yolles, spokesman for the advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks.

Joseph McKellar, executive director of Faith in New York, an interfaith group representing families in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan, said the agreement with the tennis association was “a really good first step” that would help community groups in their fight over the soccer stadium and mall.

“We’re not under any illusion that we’ve won and it’s over,” Mr. McKellar said. “It sends them a message. If you’re going to build in our community, you have to engage in our community.”

Maria Julia Echart, a Corona resident who is a member of Make the Road New York, a community advocacy organization, said: “We feel that we accomplished a lot. At the beginning, we weren’t getting anything in exchange. As members of the community, we feel like it’s our park.”

Mr. McKellar said the advocacy groups would like to know more details, including who would disburse the $10 million and what improvements the money would finance. Community groups say the park’s roadways and fields have long needed work.

The agreement also calls for establishing an interagency task force to address parking on the grass by spectators at the Open.

Holly Leicht, the executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, said the community must stay vigilant to make sure all parties kept their promises. “We really wanted to make sure this wasn’t a one-time thing and the U.S.T.A. walks away,” she said. “It’s an ongoing partnership between the U.S.T.A. and the community.”

The vote against the plan was from Councilman Daniel J. Halloran III, a Queens Republican. He said residents in his district were distressed about the amount of development in the park.

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