Tuesday, March 5, 2013

CB 7 Votes To $ Make Deal In USTA Land Grab

Pay-To-Play Scheme Sought By Community Board  7 In exchange for Expansion Approval

The expansion would utilize an additional acre of public parkland - not .68 acres - remove more than 400 trees,  bring in an additional 80,000 people, and increase traffic in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park which is already severely impacted by the USTA.  The USTA has been allowed to double its park land holdings since 1993 when they were permitted to expand from 21 acres to 42.  

Last year the USTA generated $ 275 million dollars and gave the city back just $ 2.5 million and while sending millions in "profits" across America.

"Tonight we have an opportunity  to draw a line in the sand," said board member Warren Schreiber one of three who voted against the expansion. "Enough is enough."


By Geoffrey Croft

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. 

The board enacted the destroying parks in order to "Save Them" policy last night despite strong community opposition.  A flyer was circulated before the meeting reminding the board that is was the government responsibility to fund parks not private business.  Apparently they were not swayed. 

The Parks Committee voted 8 - 3 in favor of the USTA land grab becoming the first parks committee to give the green light for the controversial project.

For weeks CB 7 leadership have been pressing for the cash for public park land swap deal but this was the first time they put an actual price tag on it.   1st Vice Chairperson Chuck Apelian finally publically put a proposed number on the deal. 

Mr. Apelian and CB 7 Chair Eugene Kelty continued to push for extracting funds from the USTA for the park and formed much of the motion.  

The motion was approved with various conditions including discount access to USTA facilities for seniors and children.

The oversite of such a fund would include a member of each of the impacted community boards.

Minutes before the vote committee chair Kim O'Hanian said there's no point in voting "no", because Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and City Council Julissa Ferreras are going to vote "yes" anyway.

Queens Community Board 7's parks committee meeting last night. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge

The prior CB7 parks committee meeting was adjourned without a vote, because the committee specifically wanted to know the dollar value that USTA places on the additional .68 acres of parkland that it is seeking to take and the amount they were will to commit. Once again the board did not receive those answers, 

The meeting started up where they left off. The USTA and the Parks Department again said that the value of the parkland would not be state because parkland is not easily valued; and because the compensation for the newly-alienated parkland is to be negotiated further downstream during ULURP by elected officials who vote on this application.

USTA would only say that some value would be established at a future time later saying last night was not the time to commit to any specific dollar amount.

Mr. Apelian proposed the $15 million as a condition that Julissa Ferreras and others can later use as leverage to extract a deal.
In a disturbing part of the evening the committee chair read a letter from committee member Phil Konigsberg,  a critic of the land grab and a board member who has attended all previous meetings on this topic.  He knew in advance that he would be unable to attend the meeting. In addition to expressing his opposition to the USTA application, Mr.   Konigsberg's letter also explained that he had sought permission from CB7 chair  Eugene Kelty to cast a vote tonight via telephone, which is explicitly permitted by the CB7 bylaws, provided that the board chairs consents. 

The letter stated that Mr. Kelty denied Phil's request to vote via telephone. After Phil's letter was read Mr.  Kelty commented for several minutes - including saying that if Phil found it so difficult to attend committee meetings, that he could dismiss him from this committee.  Critics point out that  a well-intentioned committee member had attempted to exercise his right to vote was denied that right by Kelty and was now  being threatened with removal from the committee by Kelty because he did not like the fact that a committee member  was publicly announcing that Kelty denied him the ability to vote.

Watching Dominoes Fall

District managers of other impacted community boards that have a say in the USTA matter were also in attendance. They heard the conditions that CB7 attached to its approval. 

Critics are also concerned that last night result will be a indication of things to come. Two enormous commercial proposals as also planned for the park, including a 1.4 million sq.ft  mall next to Citi-Field and 35,000 seat Major League Soccer stadium and concert hall.

The full CB7 board holds its public hearing and vote on March 11.

Parks Borough Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski,  Janice Melnick - FMCP Administrator,  Joshua Laird,  and USTA's COO Daniel Zausner. 

Read More:

A Walk In The Park - February 18, 2013- By Geoffrey Croft 

1 comment:

  1. lewandowski and laird are aging fast as they sell out and wait to collect their pensions as servile minions of the developer system, sad to see. their local parks aren't having this happen...