The United States Tennis Association (USTA) was shopping their expansion plan for the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center last week, presenting their proposal to both community boards 6 and 9.
While the addition will only be .94 acres, of which .68 acres would be parkland, local community members are not happy with a few of the details, including the removal of over 400 trees.
The proposal would eliminate one lane of the three-lane United Nations Avenue North, which according to the Parks Department is “lightly used for walking, running and bicycling.”
The expansion plan would also mean the removal of 422 trees, which the Parks Department would transplant if possible, or replace.
At Community Board 9, a mix of labor union representatives, civic leaders and residents discussed the proposed plan.
Danny Zausner, managing director of the National Tennis Center, gave a brief overview of the proposed plan, noting that 776 full-time jobs will be created during the 10-year construction project.
Rob McKay, director of public relations for the Queens Economic Development Corporation, said he supported the plan. “USTA is great for economic development in Queens,” he said.
According to McKay, USTA brings 800,000 visitors a year to Queens for the U.S. Open, and generates roughly $750 million a year in economic activity. He added that the organization runs events all year and hosts college tournaments, as well as donates free court time to local residents.
But not everyone was on board.
“We are not talking about something representing an insignificant intrusion in our park, but one that is major,” one resident said.
An electrician with Local Union Number 3 said he views the expansion as a way to feed his family. “We live in a tough economy,” he said, “So I am grateful for the regular work I get at the National Tennis Center, which has a long history of hiring local union workers.”
Jack Friedman, executive vice president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said the USTA is an economic powerhouse. “This proposed project holds special significance to business in Queens,” he said.
Geoffrey Croff, president of New York City Park Advocates, was critical of the proposal, as well as what he viewed as trumped-up support for the plan.
“Not a single person from the community who wasn’t a business person came out to support it,” he said.