City Council Approves USTA Expansion in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
QUEENS — It's an ace for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
The United States Tennis Association has agreed to fork over more than $10 million for the greenspace, contribute to a newly-formed nonprofit alliance for the park's ongoing maintenance and provide numerous programs for Queens families in exchange for an approved expansion, officials and advocates said.
The deal, which passed with a vote of 47-1 in the City Council Wednesday, will also include the return of more parkland than the organization plans to take, which parks advocates say maintains an important precedent that parkland cannot be privatized without replacement.
Under the plan, the USTA will contribute $10.05 million to the alliance, capital projects and programs that help local businesses and families, according to Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras.
"USTA has agreed to commit longterm and ongoing community outreach programs," she said.
The Tennis Association will also give 5,000 complimentary tickets to children in the borough during the annual Arthur Ashe kids day, and will create a new program to allow Queens families to receive coaching from USTA professionals, according to Ferreras.
The USTA will also offer 16 programs, including a "Queens Day" celebration, and has agreed to create a job fair exclusively for Queens residents.
The USTA’s plan, which was released in 2012, calls for replacing Louis Armstrong Stadium, building a new Grandstand stadium, adding two parking garages and replacing seven tennis courts.
A .68-acre piece of the park would also be turned over to the USTA, which already has 42-acres for its complex.
The expansion, according to Ferreras, will generate $750 million in annual revenue, create 800 construction jobs and thousands of seasonal jobs. She said they are still working out details in the expansion, including an agreement to hire more Queens workers and a solution to prevent cars from parking on the grass during matches.
New Yorkers for Parks released a statement Wednesday commending the agreement, saying it "heralds a new era" for the park.
"Not only has the USTA agreed to help fund much-needed capital improvements in the most heavily used park in Queens, it will also contribute annually to park maintenance and programming through a new nonprofit Alliance that the Parks Department is creating for the park," the group said in a statement.
Javier Valdes, of the Fairness Coalition of Queens, applauded the deal.
"We believe this agreement will put Flushing Meadows-Corona Park ant the surrounding community on a more solid footing for the future," he wrote.
In May, the USTA first agreed to the plan to replace the parkland, totaling 1.56 acres.
This agreement came after community boards and Borough President Helen Marshall recommended the parkland be replaced.
Ferreras advocated strongly for the replacement of parkland as well as the creation of an organization that allows the USTA to contribute financially to the maintenance of the park, which is the largest in the borough.
The renovation was approved by the Department of City Planning in May, and City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden cited the increase of park space as a reason to approve the plan.
"An agreement has been reached for the USTA to return to the city 1.56 acres of parkland that it currently leases, thereby ensuring that there will be no loss of public parkland in order to accomplish the proposed upgrade to the tennis center," she said at the time.