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West Side Tennis Club members are expected to decide next month whether to sell the club’s stadium, an iconic structure that was home to the US Open for more than 60 years, but which has not been used for decades and which residents said is dilapidated.
The club did not return a request for comment, but a notice posted at the club stated members are slated to vote on the potential sale Aug. 19. A meeting about the sale has been proposed for Aug. 10 at the club.
The news that club members were reconsidering selling the stadium — an idea proposed before in the mid-1990s — has brought hopes from some community members that the arena, which is falling apart, would be razed and turned into something that would blend in with the Forest Hills Gardens. Others have said they want the stadium to be preserved and landmarked in the exclusive private community with some of the borough’s highest-priced real estate.
“It’s disgusting, it’s been in disrepair for years,” said Forest Hills Community and Civic Association President Barbara Stuchinski. “It hasn’t been used since the 1970s, when they were holding some concerts there that no one wanted.”
Stuchinski said she supported a plan proposed in the mid-1990s to replace the stadium with townhouses.
“It sounded great,” she said. “It would’ve been limited in size and comparable to what is in the garden, keeping with the architectural motif so it would blend in.”
The tennis club was founded at the end of the 19th century and the 15,000-seat stadium began hosting the US Open around 1915. The stadium became too small for the US Open and the event moved to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the late 1970s. The stadium is part of the club’s 14-acre property that includes 38 courts and a swimming pool. According to sources, the tennis club is operating in the red and needs to sell the stadium to generate needed revenue.
“The Forest Hills tennis stadium is an American and international icon, which is imminently endangered, since the West Side Tennis Club is seriously considering an offer from a developer who will likely demolish it for a condo,” said Michael Perlman, chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council.
Perlman said his preservation council has launched a landmark campaign to prevent the stadium from being demolished.
Because the stadium is located in the gardens, which are zoned R3-2 — the lowest density zone in which multiple dwellings are allowed — City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) said whatever replaces the structure could not be “huge.”
“We could use senior housing, that would be wonderful, but I don’t know what they intend to do,” Koslowitz said.
Besides hosting tennis matches, the stadium has been the site of a number of concerts, including The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Portions of the 2001 film “The Royal Tenenbaums” was filmed there.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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