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Preservation group praises pols for supporting tennis stadium

An open letter to U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, state Sen. Toby Stavisky, City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz and state Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi:

I am writing on behalf of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council. We extend a special thank you for composing a joint letter to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission Aug. 12 requesting a feasibility study.

Gratefully, you have responded to the pleas of a coalition of local and national landmark supporters in the face of a historic international icon, the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, and also expressed the need for the LPC to hear and designate more landmarks in Queens. You acknowledged the sentiments of the greater public, which hopes to see the stadium landmarked, by the city and state, to commemorate its history and grant funding. Restoring and reusing it with everyone in mind will ultimately boost jobs, business and tourism and convey pride.

From its rendering in the 1922 MIT Technology Review, it was depicted as “America’s tennis stadium” and proven to be an influential venue as an architectural first. But for all its firsts in tennis and music history, seemingly poor marketing decisions by boards of the West Side Tennis Club in recent years let it go astray.

Under Cord Meyer Development’s condo-minded proposal Aug. 10 at a private meeting at the club, a portion of the stadium’s facade would be retained, but the soul of the iconic stadium, including the grandstands, interior stone work and field, would be sucked out for out-of-context condos. It would usher around 200 residents into Forest Hills Gardens and be another case of overdevelopment in Queens.

Our schools are already burdened. It is doubtful a modern design would be approved over the preservation of an iconic site by the Forest Hills Gardens Corp. in the face of restrictive covenants. This group has always prevented the demolition of historic sites and maintained the neighborhood’s historic identity and property values since Forest Hills Gardens’ creation 101 years ago.

If not landmarked, its potential loss would designate it the “Pennsylvania Station of Queens.” Let’s speculate how future generations would look back if the government and public had a chance to rescue and reuse this noble site for tennis matches, concerts, weddings, community events, school trips, exhibits, etc., but failed.

Our consensus is that building typical condos of Anytown, USA, and demolishing the majority of an icon in order to settle a debt, would be the most selfish, short-sighted and unimaginative approach. There are some sites so significant to our community and nation’s heritage and backbone, and so few and far between, that any compromise would account for a major loss.

We hope you will continue to fulfill your role on behalf of the majority of constituents and national supporters to defend one of our nation’s greatest “landmarks at heart” and a 21st-century family destination of great potential — if marketed and reused creatively with the assistance of city and state funding and fund-raising by groups such as ours.

Michael Perlman

Chairman

Rego-Forest Preservation Council

Forest Hills

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