Friday, April 26, 2013

Helen Marshall Approves USTA Expansion With Pay-To-Play Conditions

As expected, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall formally approved the expansion of the USTA facility in Flushing Meadows Corona Park with conditions.   The conditions include the creation of an FMCP alliance with the USTA donating $15 million dollars towards the fund.    

Throughout the USTA hearing held by Helen Marshall on April 4th,  the Borough President repeatedly complimented the USTA and their supporters and consistently interrupted speakers who criticized her. 


Queens Borough President Helen Marshall issued her formal recommendation to the City Council regarding the proposed expansion of theNational Tennis Center (NTC) in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park last Thursday, Apr. 11.

In her letter, Marshall recommended the approval of the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) request to alienate an additional .68 acres of park land for the expansion.

The alienated land would allow the USTA to move seven courts 30 feet south of their current location in order to expand an interior walkway, Dan Zausner, chief operating officer of the NTC, stated at an Apr. 8 Borough Board meeting.

Of the six community boards affected by the plan, three voted to approve and three voted to deny. All but one rendered their verdicts with stipulations requesting money from the USTA to improve the park and improve community outreach programs. Boards 6, 7 and 8 voted to approve, while boards 3, 4 and 9 disapproved.

In the letter, Marshall affixed a number of conditions motivated by community boards’ requests:

• any alienated land should be fully replaced;

• all trees removed or damaged must be replaced in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in accordance with Department of Parks and Recreation’s (DPR) tree replacement specifications and policy;

• a Project Labor Agreement must be developed, finalized and in place well before any work begins;

• a specific plan to engage Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises, promote local hiring (including job fairs) and maximize local business opportuntities must be developed, finalized and in place before any work begins;

• a USTA donation to establish a $15 million FMCP Benefit Fund that would “supplement, not supplant” the NYC Budget basic allocation for the DPR’s maintenance and operation of the park;

• the creation of an FMCP alliance that would include representatives from affected community boards, the Office of Borough President, affected City Council members and the DPR and would be responsible for administration of the FMCP Benefit Fund, private fundraising for ongoing park maintenance and upkeep, park programs and improvements; and

• the stadium to be rebuilt on the footprint of the existing Louis Armstrong Stadium must also carry the name of the jazz legend.

The recommendation noted the NTC stimulates local business, citing USTA estimates that the US Open, an international tennis tournament held at the NTC, attracts 700,000 spectators a year to Queens over the event’s two-week span. The letter also states that the USTA is “actively involved with programs and events to support NYC school children, 70 school tennis programs and the community at large.” The USTA has said it serves more than 100,000 individuals who are mostly Queens residents and provides approximately $1 million a year for initiatives including free tennis programs, free equipemnt, court refurbishments and scholarships.

When asked, Zausner’s office would not comment on how feasible the conditions were or whether the USTA would meet them.

Read More:

Times Newsweekly - April 18, 2013 -  By Max Jaeger

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