The United States Tennis Association has agreed to replace 1.56 acres of parkland to New York City in return for the 0.68 acres of land it wants as part of the expansion of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The move comes after calls from community members and elected officials to replace the land that they would need as part of their renovation project. Earlier this year, the USTA went to the six community boards that have jurisdiction over the park – Community Boards 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 – presenting their plan for the changes they want to make to the tennis center. The project includes upgrading the Louis Armstrong Stadium and moving Grandstand Stadium to the southwest corner of the tennis center. The USTA needs approval of the 0.68 acres as it is currently not a part of their lease agreement with the City.
According to a USTA-issued press release announcing the deal, the 1.56 acres includes 0.81 acres of space for recreation including five tennis courts. A Dept of Parks spokesperson said that a portion of the new park space is already converted for recreation and would not require any construction or renovation. The rest of the land, 0.75 acres, will be an open patch of grass just like you would find at any other park.
Daniel Zausner, COO of the National Tennis Center, said that it was important to listen to community concerns about parkland in Queens and create more green space.
“At the outset of the project, the City suggested that park improvements would result in a more meaningful degree of public benefit than an in-kind replacement for the 0.68 acres that is proposed for alienation. However, understanding that every inch of parkland is precious and after seeking input and recommendations from the local Queens communities and elected officials, the USTA, in consultation with the Parks Department, decided it was in the best interest of all parties to propose a parkland swap,” Zausner said.
Hilary Klein, Strategic Campaigns Director for Make The Road New York, said that while it is good that the USTA is giving parkland to the City, they still need to do more including putting more resources into the Flushing Meadows itself and listening to community concerns about the park.
“It’s a very important first step,” she said.
Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St Albans) echoed similar thoughts, saying that the USTA needs to increase its community presence to benefit the Borough, especially areas adjacent to the park.
“I’m pleased that they are trying to replace the parkland,” Comrie said. “The one thing that we need the most in Queens is open space.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing the details and hearing what the community has to say, but it seems that the USTA and Parks Department reached a sensible agreement,” said State Senator Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) of the parkland exchange.
While the City and USTA have agreed on the land swap, the deal will not be final until it is approved by the City Council.