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City’s remake of Flushing tennis courts ends in love

Ron Lehenbauer got his wish Tuesday and all it took was a million dollars and a few bad jokes.

City Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe and City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) cut the ribbon on eight renovated tennis courts at the Flushing Fields Monday, something that has been a long time coming for Lehenbauer, who lives just blocks away.

“It’s beautiful,” Lehenbauer said. “I’ve been following the progress every step of the way, I have around 100 or 200 digital photos of the construction.”

Lehenbauer has played at the tennis courts, at 149th Street and 26th Avenue, for more than 25 years. Several years ago Lehenbauer contacted Liu after he and other players noticed the at-the-time clay courts were in continuous disrepair. Liu secured $1 million in the city budget for the project and with some cooperation from the Parks Department and Benepe the end result formally went on display Tuesday.

Benepe, known for cracking jokes at ribbon cuttings, showed several dozen anxious tennis players that the funding would not be the only cost to getting their new courts.

“What do you call a really smart tennis player?” Benepe said. “A racket scientist.”

Following a few courtesy chuckles, Benepe said he was happy to present the courts to the public.

“What do you get for a million dollars? Not what you used to, but you can get eight new tennis courts, some benches and a drinking fountain, which isn’t half-bad,” he said.

The formerly clay courts are now concrete, but have been outfitted with a fresh coat of paint, new nets and new fencing surrounding the facility.

Liu also tried his hand at humor. Referring to reports that he has misrepresented stories from his childhood in his campaign for city comptroller, Liu said he remembers the tennis courts as a child.

“There are some stories out there that say I don’t remember my childhood that well, but my memory is very clear. And these tennis courts did not look as they do today,” he said. “I live two blocks from here now and my son can use these courts. Hopefully, in 20 years he’ll look back with fond memories at the time he spent here.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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