Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Response To Electeds' Feasibility Study Request For Iconic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium

Forest Hills: Tennis as Tennis: Forest Hills - Central element of this 1929 aerial photo by Hamilton Maxwell Inc proves just that! The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium was at the ripe age of 6.
 An open letter to our elected officials:

Dear Congressman Weiner, Senator Stavisky, Councilmember Koslowitz, & Assemblymember Hevesi,

    I am writing on behalf of Rego-Forest Preservation Council. We extend a special thank you for composing a joint letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission on August 12, 2010, requesting a feasibility study. Gratefully, you have responded to the pleas of a vast coalition of local and national landmark individual & organizational supporters, in the face of a historic international icon, the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, and also expressed the need for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to hear and designate more landmarks in Queens. You acknowledged the sentiments of the greater public, who hopes to see the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium landmarked (by city and state) to commemorate its history and grant funding, and purchased by a more creative and deserving party who would restore and reuse it with everyone in mind, to ultimately boost jobs, business, tourism, and convey pride.

Sept 25, 1937 news photo. Caption: General view of the crowd at the Forest Hills Stadium. As the Sept 23, 2010 voting day at the West Side Tennis Club approaches, imagine the historic Stadium's mixed-use economic potential for the greater public, & reject typical condos for a select group.

From its rendering in the 1922 MIT Technology Review, it was depicted as "America's Tennis Stadium," and was proven to be an influential venue as an architectural first countrywide, and for its firsts in tennis and music history, but 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 on August 10th at a private meeting at the WSTC, a portion of the Forest Hills Tennis 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, more closely resembling a Brutalist Style structure of the Cold War, or "Disney-esque" to phrase it mildly. This could happen if 2/3 of WSTC voting-eligible members approve of a sale to Cord Meyer on September 23rd. In turn, It would usher around 200 residents into the Forest Hills Gardens, and be another case of overdevelopment in Queens. Our schools are already burdened. It is doubtful that a modern design would be approved over the preservation of an iconic site by the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation, in the face of Restrictive Covenants. The Corporation has always prevented demolition of historic sites, and maintained the neighborhood's historic identity and property values, since the 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 (smaller) tennis matches, (subdued) concerts, weddings, community events, school trips, exhibits, etc, but failed.

Pennsylvania Station in 1910, but demolished in 1963 despite public outcry. It led to the Landmarks Law in 1965, designed to prevent such travesties, and to preserve our landmarks officially such as the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. Don't let history repeat itself! Photo courtesy of Evening Telegraph blog

Our consensus is that building typical condos of "Anytown USA" and demolishing the majority of an icon in order to settle a debt (according to published reports), 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. One may ask, "Shall we be remembered as defeatists or civic-minded creative visionaries?"

We hope that you will continue to fulfill your role on behalf of the majority of constituents and national supporters, in order to defend one of our nation's greatest "landmarks at heart," and a 21st century family destination of great potential character-wise and economically, if marketed and reused creatively, with the assistance of city and state funding, and fundraising by groups such as ours. Thank you very much!


- Michael Perlman
Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Chair


For more photos and some rare memorabilia, visit: