Saturday, August 7, 2010

Forest Hills Tennis Stadium Up for Sale by Michael Cusenza - Queens Chronicle

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A crumbling, historic Forest Hills sporting and entertainment venue was recently put up for sale reportedly to make way for housing.

The West Side Tennis Club, which owns the land on which the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium sits, is looking to sell the 2.5-acre parcel of its 14-acre Forest Hills Gardens property in order to cover debts, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Monday.

The 15,000-seat stadium was home to the U.S. Open Tennis Championships from 1915 to 1978. It also hosted concerts by the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Who, Diana Ross and the Boston Pops.

The report indicates a letter was sent last week informing the membership that Forest Hills-based Cord Meyer Development Co. would purchase the land for up to $9 million. The famed facade of the stadium would remain intact.

An architect is scheduled to present the construction plan to club members at a meeting on Aug. 10, with a vote on the project expected Aug. 19. Two-thirds of the membership needs to approve the plans before the sale can move forward.

The Gardens is an R3-2 zoning district, which allows for a variety of housing types including one- and two-family detached and semi-detached houses, garden apartments and row houses.

“Whatever is built would have to, in some way, shape or form, conform with what’s already there,” said Frank Gulluscio, district manager of Community Board 6.

A spokesman for the club did not return calls seeking information on the sale. Requests for comment from Cord Meyer were referred to the public relations firm CJ2 Communications Strategies.

“At this point we have no comment,” said Judy White of CJ2.

Reaction to the potential deal from Forest Hills Gardens residents was mixed Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s part of our history,” said an elderly woman who has lived a block from the stadium for 12 years but declined to give her name. “I mean, we need to preserve something and not succumb to the greed of the big shots.”

Joe Kelly Jr., 32, who lives across the street from the stadium said, “If they build [houses], it ups my property value; if they don’t, it doesn’t. It’s not an eyesore to me, but to people looking to buy, maybe.”

A female member said she’s “all for” the sale, noting it involves a small portion of the club at 1 Tennis Pl.

But 30-year Gardens resident Don Muzich cited the stadium’s rich history before suggesting it be refurbished or a park be established instead.

“I don’t want any more large buildings with a lot of apartments,” he said.

Michael Perlman, chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council, called the stadium “a historic site with local, citywide, national and international prestige,” and has been pushing for the city and state to officially landmark it.

“If any part of a legendary piece of history is touched and demolished, it does not look wise on the part of Cord Meyer or the West Side Tennis Club’s board of directors,” Perlman said.

Gulluscio said landmarking is a unique issue that calls for financial support.

“It has nostalgic value, but I don’t know about landmark value,” he said.

Perlman said the designation makes economic sense and would only open the door to monetary aid.

“It could be reused for smaller concerts and tennis matches, as well as other community events, such as fundraisers,” Perlman said. “It would usher in jobs, too, and help Forest Hills and neighboring vicinities out of a harsh economic climate.”