Sunday, October 31, 2010

a SpOoKtAcUlAr HaLlOwEeN!!!

WiShInG eVeRyOnE a SpOoKtAcUlAr HaLlOwEeN fRoM rEgO-fOrEsT pReSeRvAtIoN cOuNcIl!!!




 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Unveiling Our Flyer: Please Volunteer & Distribute


 Extra! Extra! Rego-Forest Preservation Council has just released its promotional flyer...

The flyer encompasses our mission statement, links to our Rego-Forest Preservation Council Blog and self-titled Facebook Group, and a link to distinctive and historic neighborhood photos and memorabilia on Rego-Forest Preservation Council's Flickr It also explains how the public can support the preservation of Rego Park, Forest Hills, and Queens at large.

We are seeking support from community and citywide residents, preservation and cultural organizations, property owners, architects, urban planners, conservationists, and more. You name it! Let's bring the teamwork back into the neighborhood, and subtract greed which would culminate in insensitive alterations and the demolition of site & district "landmarks at heart," and would also result in the elimination of our precious green spaces and trees, if we don't "fight the good fight" in a proactive manner.

Please download the flyer by clicking on the photo, contact Chairman Michael Perlman at unlockthevault@hotmail.com, provide copies to your family and friends, bring it to your board meetings and events, and please don't hesitate to invite us.

The images on our flyer (left to right) represents a fraction of the types of individual buildings and sometimes surrounding neighborhood districts that merit preservation:

1. Sutton Hall, 109-14 Ascan Ave, Forest Hills
2. Midway Theatre, 108-22 Queens Blvd, Forest Hills
3. Earliest apartment houses on Saunders St between 63rd Dr & Elliot Ave, Rego Park
4. Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, 1 Tennis Place, Forest Hills Gardens
5. Forest Hills Inn & Station Square, Forest Hills Gardens
6. Eddie's Sweet Shop (formerly Witt's Ice Cream), 105-29 Metropolitan Ave, Forest Hills

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How Landmarking Would Help The West Side Tennis Club or A Future Owner

To West Side Tennis Club: 

Rego-Forest Preservation Council urges you to consider us an ally, and explore some pros of obtaining a combination of city, state, and federal landmark designation for the iconic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium and complex:

I. Limits some alterations and demolition of historic sites, which would otherwise inhibit the harmonious architectural character of a property, properties, and potentially reduce property values and economic benefits of a site &/or neighborhood.

II. Conveys prestige and neighborhood pride, and helps bond the generations on the basis of a property or properties’ architectural, cultural, & historical merit.

III. Grant eligibility: While Landmarking increases property recognition, it will increase the likelihood of acquiring grants. A sampling of several programs which make funding available, are as follows:

- The NY Landmarks Conservancy is a preservation non-profit that provides funding via grants/tax credits to property owners and religious institutions wishing to rehabilitate and restore their buildings, and offers technical assistance. The NY Landmarks Conservancy’s website is http://www.nylandmarks.org, which includes various programs.

- In conjunction with Landmarking via the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, placement on the State & National Register of Historic Places is also significant for the commemoration and acquisition of state and federal grants for historically-sensitive upgrades and restoration work. The State Historic Preservation’s Office’s State & National Register of Historic Places can also assist property owners with their needs, by utilizing federal tax benefits associated with the purchase or rehabilitation of properties on state & national levels: http://www.nysparks.state.ny.us/shpo/

      The West Side Tennis Club board and members should realize that regardless of the percentage that is granted through a combination of city, state, and federal incentives, funding can also be acquired from independent individual and organizational donors. The WSTC does not have to drain their pockets. The multi-faceted fundraising aspect, and the long-term economic benefit of a creatively mixed-use historic icon for the greater American public, as initially envisioned and proven throughout nearly a century of the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, should be considered.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe Says Landmark The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium & Clubhouse!

Rego-Forest Preservation Council owes gratitude to Ms. Moutoussamy-Ashe, wife of the late Arthur Ashe, for lending her voice to the landmark letter campaign for the endangered Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. We proudly bring you a first-hand account from the wife of one of the country's greatest tennis players of all time:

The legendary Arthur Ashe; 1 of 2 who broke the racial color barrier in tennis history at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium

October 6, 2010

Dear Chairman Tierney & Landmarks Preservation Commission Staff,

I am writing entreating you to consider voting to grant landmark status to the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, courts, interiors, and the Clubhouse of the West Side Tennis Club. The venue holds claim to a storied history as the location of the US Open from 1915 until 1977: all the champions of the sport throughout that time period, including my late husband Arthur Ashe, played on those courts. Setting aside its place in tennis history, Forest Hills has hosted concerts and events for some of the most prominent and legendary figures in pop culture. It is certainly an important part of cultural history.

However, the reason why it is so important to preserve the stadium is not simply that all the greats have played there, but because it represents the progress and achievements of tennis, and furthermore, of the last American century. When Althea Gibson won on center court in 1957 or when Arthur won his first Grand Slam title there in 1968, barriers were broken, moving the sport of tennis forward. Forest Hills stands as a reminder and the physical embodiment of that fact. Additionally, it was also here that in 1968 the first "open" US championships were held, signifying tennis' move to become a less stratified and more democratic sport. Both of these episodes - breaking the color barrier and the democratization of tennis - are tremendous achievements in tennis history. Furthermore, these accomplishments are representative of the shifts in American society during the 20th century. Forest Hills stands as a signifier for the progress of tennis and America.

It is my sincere hope that you will consider my remarks and what Forest Hills means, beyond being bricks and mortar. It truly is a monument to hope and history, for myself, many Americans, and countless others across the world. Thank you so much for your time.



www.arthurashe.org 

Press Round-Up: Condos Rejected at Famed Forest Hills Tennis Stadium

On October 7, 2010, 56% of 291 voting-eligible members of the West Side Tennis Club voted to reject the typical condos proposed by Cord Meyer, which would have demolished the majority of the iconic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, and would have deprived the greater community of a mixed-use stadium of great potential. If approved by a 2/3 vote required by the bylaws, it would have applied a quick-fix, temporary solution for the West Side Tennis Club on settling a debt (according to published reports). Since the WSTC membership has spoken on the basis of their vote, and the greater public had an influence to date, this resulted in a steady stream of press coverage:

1. Rego-Forest Preservation Council Press Release, The Ball Is In Our Court! 10/8/10: http://regoforestpreservation.blogspot.com/2010/10/condos-rejected-for-forest-hills-tennis.html

2. Wall St Journal, Forest Hills Tennis Stadium Won't Go Condo, 10/8/10:
http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/...2010/10/08/forest-hills-tennis-stadium-wont-go-condo/
Tennis Club Blocks A Sale:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704696304575538870265370624.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

3. NY1 News, Historic Queens Tennis Club Votes Down Condo Deal, 10/8/10: http://queens.ny1.com/content/126849/historic-queens-tennis-club-votes-down-condo-deal

4. Queens Ledger (Forest Hills Times), West Side Tennis Stadium Won't Be Sold, 10/7/10:
http://www.queensledger.com/view/full_story/9827120/article-BREAKING-NEWS--West-Side-Tennis-Stadium-Won-t-Be-Sold

5. Carter's View, WSTC Vote Does Not Approve Residential Conversion of Its Stadium, 10/8/10:
http://www.cityrealty.com/new-york-city-real-estate/carters-view/west-side-tennis-club-vote-does-not-approve-residential-conversion-stadium/35242

6. Queens Courier, Historic Tennis Stadium Rejects Developer, 10/12/10:
http://www.queenscourier.com/articles/2010/10/12/news/top_stories/doc4cb46cc02338b253155771.txt

7. Forest Hills Patch, What's Next For The Tennis Stadium, 10/12/10:
http://foresthills.patch.com/articles/whats-next-for-the-tennis-stadium

8. NY Post, West Side Tennis Club Won't Sell, 10/13/10:
http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/queens/west_side_tennis_club_won_sell_qvmXiyegrgp1qpyL6eO8qN?CMP=OTC-rss&FEEDNAME=

9. Queens Gazette, Forest Hills Tennis Stadium Gets Reprieve, 10/13/10:
http://www.qgazette.com/news/2010-10-13/Front_Page/Forest_Hills_Tennis_Stadium_Gets_Reprieve.html

10. Times Ledger (Forest Hills Ledger), West Side Tennis Club Won't Sell, 10/14/10: http://www.yournabe.com/articles/2010/10/14/whitestone_times/news/wt_west_side_tennis_club_stadium_vote_20101014.txt

11. Queens Chronicle, Tennis Stadium Stays In The Picture, 10/14/10:
http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=20448971&BRD=2731&PAG=461&dept_id=574907&rfi=6%20-%2042k

12. Queens Tribune, Stadium Condo Plans Shot Down By Club, 10/14/10: http://www.queenstribune.com/deadline/Deadline_101410_StadiumCondoPlan.html

13. Forum West, Set Point: West Side Tennis Club Rejects Condo Proposal, 10/14/10: http://forumnewsgroup.blogspot.com/search/label/west%20side%20tennis%20stadium http://forumnewsgroup.blogspot.com/2010/10/this-weeks-forum-south-and-west.html

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weiner Praises Decision to Reject Razing of Forest Hills Stadium

 Rego-Forest Preservation Council extends our gratitude to Congressman Anthony Weiner of NY's 9th District. To date, he has worked with us and other concerned citizens, hoping to preserve and reuse the iconic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. When facing the prospect of the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium being sold to a condo developer if 2/3 of the West Side Tennis Club membership would approve, in August 2010, he deemed the cause an issue for the greater community, realizing who it was conceived for, and how it entertained generations since 1923. He urged the WSTC to listen to the opinions of the greater public, so everyone can have a role in its future. He also collaborated upon a feasibility study endorsed by Councilmember Karen Koslowitz, State Senator Toby Stavisky, & Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, urging the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to study the issue closely, and consider holding a public hearing. In addition, he released public statements, urging the USTA to consider holding at least 1 US Open match per year at the stadium (original home), as a means of increasing the viability of the WSTC, stadium, and community, while preserving a historic site.

 Weiner Praises Decision to Reject Razing of Forest Hills Stadium 

Queens, NY (Oct 8, 2010) - Following a vote by the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, NY not to sell their historic tennis stadium to developers, Rep. Anthony D. Weiner (D- Brooklyn and Queens) released the following statement:

 

 "My neighbors and I are gratified by the decision of the members of the West Side Tennis Club to reject the proposal to sell development rights to the historic stadium.”

“This will give us all a chance to take a step back, take a deep breath and explore the best way forward to preserve this iconic site while respecting the rights of the club members. This is good news.”


###

Friday, October 8, 2010

Condos Rejected for Forest Hills Tennis Stadium: The Ball Is In Our Court!

For Immediate Release
Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, Sept 4, 2010 By Michael Perlman
View from top center of grandstands of Forest Hills Tennis Stadium towards courts & West Side Tennis Clubhouse, By Peter Dutton, July 31, 2010
Forest Hills Tennis Stadium circa 1938, Published by Miller Art Co & Courtesy of Michael Perlman Postcard Collection
Contact: Chairman Michael Perlman
Rego-Forest Preservation Council

QUEENS, NY (October 8, 2010) - The ball is in the court of "Forest Hills!" The iconic yet endangered Forest Hills Tennis Stadium earned a reprieve on October 7, 2010. Cord Meyer Development's proposal to build condos and demolish the majority of the stadium was rejected by West Side Tennis Club members, after not receiving a 2/3 vote (required by bylaws) to approve a sale. The vote was 123-123, proving that only 246 of 291 voting-eligible members voted, and the remainder made a rightful prediction of the outcome.

Rather than Cord Meyer trying to strain the heart of supporters of Queens' most deserving landmark, Chairman Michael Perlman of Rego-Forest Preservation Council and its members, and citizens alike, can now focus more precisely on exploring creative mixed-use ventures for the Stadium, and continuing our advocacy for city, state, and federal landmark status to preserve a local to international icon, while opening the door to funding (including independent organizational grants) for a much-needed restoration and historically-sensitive upgrades (approximately $12 million). 
  
Perlman explains "Disney-esque condos would have torn the heart out of Forest Hills. Mixed-use creative revitalization would yield a greater economic return in the long-run, and may feature tennis matches, concerts, weddings, exhibits, school trips, charity events, music and art festivals, etc. It would abide with its original and proven mission as "America's Tennis Stadium" according to a 1922 ad. It has the potential to be a 21st century family destination, bring our communities closer together, boost tourism, convey historic pride, educate our children, and help local businesses through tough economic times, and be an incentive for newer businesses i.e. on the Austin St corridor." The USTA and International Tennis Hall of Fame have offered their expertise, and the NY Philharmonic is considering use of the stadium as their summer home.

Chairman Michael Perlman launched a grassroots campaign on July 23, 2010, after learning that the historic stadium might be sold & demolished, and submitted a Request For Evaluation form with 50 pages consisting of primary sources to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, recommending the Stadium, Clubhouse, grounds, & interiors for NYC Landmark status. Perlman also reached out and met with local politicians. A landmark letter campaign and petition drive to the LPC and elected officials is ongoing, calling on a public hearing as a first step in the process. 

On October 6, 2010, Rego-Forest Preservation Council published an appeal to the West Side Tennis Club, encouraging members to "consider the firsts in tennis, music, and architectural history, and vote to preserve an international icon" at the October 7th club meeting. Designed by award-winning architect Kenneth Murchison and built by The Foundation Co, it was the first concrete tennis stadium countrywide, was home to the US Open, Davis Cup, & Wightman Cup. It hosted players such as Bill Tilden, Helen Jacobs, Roger Federer, and Arthur Ashe & Althea Gibson who broke the racial color barrier. The Stadium also played cinematic roles, as it featured key scenes of Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers On A Train. Annual music festivals and concerts took ground in the late 1950s - late 1990s, featuring The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Ross, The Monkees, The Who, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Simon & Garfunkel, Trini Lopez, Peter, Paul, & Mary, and more legendary acts.

Rego-Forest Preservation Council will continue advocating for landmark status, creative reuse, and seeking benefactors, and hopes the West Side Tennis Club will confide in us an ally, and work cooperatively towards a viable future for the historic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, which reflects the sentiments and ideals of the greater American public. 

Photos

1. Rego-Forest Preservation Council Photoset featuring Stadium, Clubhouse, Memorabilia -
http://www.flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/sets/72157607136282297/  

2. Forest Hills Tennis Stadium: Gallery 1 featuring Joe Shlabotnik/Peter Dutton's photos -
http://www.flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/galleries/72157624960334088  

3. Forest Hills Tennis Stadium: Gallery 2 featuring Joe Shlabotnik/Peter Dutton's photos -
http://www.flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/galleries/72157624960580042/

###

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

To WSTC: Vote Down Condo Plans For Tennis Stadium On 10/7 & Support Creative Reuse For The Greater Community

Please forward this posting to your friends, family, and WSTC members... A vote at the West Side Tennis Club is slated for October 7, 2010, and requires 2/3 approval of 291 voting-eligible members, in order to sell the iconic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium to Cord Meyer Development for typical condos, which would entail demolition, the loss of an icon, and out-of-context construction that only 75 condo owners would benefit from.

Before any members vote, please consider its firsts in tennis, music, and architectural history, and how a revitalized mixed-use stadium could revitalize our community and city's quality of life and economic conditions. If Cord Meyer demolished any part of it for condos (which can be built elsewhere), it would be equivalent to wiping an internationally-recognized site and "Forest Hills" off the map. 

As a WSTC member, YOU should VOTE NO on October 7th, and act on behalf of the greater public. Think twice!

Forest Hills Patch article:
http://foresthills.patch.com/articles/vote-on-tennis-stadium-locked-in-for-oct-7

Regardless of the outcome of the closed-door vote at the WSTC on 10/7, the greater community can still have a fair say and help save a "landmark at heart" by composing a letter in support of Landmark status, and requesting a most democratic public hearing at the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. Please take a few moments to do your part by visiting:

http://regoforestpreservation.blogspot.com/2010/07/save-forest-hills-tennis-stadium.html

The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium merits City & State Landmark status, which would commemorate its history and recognize its prestige. It would open the door towards federal, state, city, and independent non-profit organizational funding opportunities for a sensible restoration, be a catalyst for a mixed-use creative revitalization, which may feature tennis matches, concerts, weddings, exhibits, school trips, charity events, music and art festivals, etc. It would abide with its original yet proven mission as "America's Tennis Stadium" according to a 1922 ad. 

Preservation and creative reuse would yield a greater economic return in the long-run, and accomplish the following:

1. Bring our community closer together
2. Boost tourism
3. Convey historic pride & educate our children
4. Help our local businesses through tough economic times & be an incentive for newer businesses i.e. on the Austin St corridor.  

Condos are a short-sighted, temporary, least imaginative solution towards settling a debt, but history is forever. Let's realize the larger picture, referring to future generations, the tennis and music greats, and an architectural first countrywide by famed architect Kenneth Murchison. Typical condos represent "Anytown USA," but this is a landmark opportunity for something truly unique for ALL. Demolition of an icon for condos = The Penn Station case of Queens!

Typical condos would accomplish the following:

1. Cater to a relatively select few condo owners (75 units = 200 new residents), rather than being a 21st century family destination.
2. The burdening of our infrastructure
3. Overcrowding of schools
4. If the majority is demolished for a typical condo under Cord Meyer's current proposal, it would pave the way for more demolitions of historic sites in the Forest Hills  Gardens, which is bounded by Restrictive Covenants, which supposed to safeguard historic sites and consequently bars such demolition.
5. Adversely affect property values within the Forest Hills Gardens, and the adjacent Van Court section, for example.
6. The soul of an icon would be eliminated, and the bulk of current and future generations would have regrets that we lost an internationally-recognized icon that could have been preserved and creatively reused, which Forest Hills is so fortunate to have. It would leave a scar upon our community, and upon the countless supporters abound, in the name of architectural and cultural history.

Photos

1. Rego-Forest Preservation Council Photoset featuring Stadium, Clubhouse, Memorabilia -
http://www.flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/sets/72157607136282297/ 

2. Forest Hills Tennis Stadium: Gallery 1 featuring Joe Shlabotnik/Peter Dutton's photos -
http://www.flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/galleries/72157624960334088  

3. Forest Hills Tennis Stadium: Gallery 2 featuring Joe Shlabotnik/Peter Dutton's photos -
http://www.flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/galleries/72157624960580042/

Bookmark-worthy blogs for stadium campaign updates:

1. Rego-Forest Preservation Council:
http://regoforestpreservation.blogspot.com
2. The Forest Hills Gardens Blog:
http://foresthillsgardensblog.com/
3. Edge of The City: A Forest Hills, NY Blog: 
http://edgeofthecityblog.com/

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How TDR + Landmarking Could Save Forest Hills Tennis Stadium: A Response To Cord Meyer's Letter To Queens Tribune Editor

How TDR Could Save The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium (Response to Cord Meyer)
Queens Tribune
October 4, 2010 

To The Editor:

     Mr. Panico’s lawyerly letter to the editor (Sept. 30) on the application of Transferable Development Rights (TDR) to the landmarking of the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium site his company wishes to purchase and redevelop is legally correct as far as it goes.  It omits, however, some points I believe relevant to the decision to be made by the West Side Tennis Club and City Hall on landmarking and saving this historic property.

1. New York’s TDR regulations, the first in the nation, are 42 years old.  With one small exception, it seems they haven’t been amended since the Nixon administration.  So they have not benefitted from development and use of the TDR idea over several decades in other cities.

2. The City’s TDR regulations are excessively restrictive compared with those in other cities.  They deny the benefits of TDR to seven zoning districts.  They allow density to be transferred only to a lot next door or across the street.  These shackles limit the use of TDR to support historic preservation much more than in other cities with more flexible provisions.  They seem designed to address one particular case from the past rather than to establish consistent citywide policy for the future.

3.  The TDR rules reflect a Manhattan-centric concept of historic preservation.  Ruling out the benefits of TDR in lower-density residential and commercial districts like those in Queens seems to assume no possibility of there being an historic property in a low-density residential area like the stadium.  This is short-sighted and parochial.  Most of the land in this city is in single-family homes, not Manhattan high-rises.  Yes, a residential neighborhood location for a stadium is an outlier, but arguably that only makes it more special and worth preserving.

4. City Council can amend and update the regulations for TDR at any time upon request of the West Side Tennis Club to the City Planning Commission or even, as in other cities, at the Commission’s initiative in the public interest.  Private parties propose amendments called rezonings all the time.  Residents of New York need not be chained to the world of 1968, when TDR was new and unproven.

5. The City could, without any harm that I can see, act now to amend the zoning resolution’s rules for TDR to include all zoning districts (historic merit is no respecter of zoning boundaries) and to allow density to be transferred to any other lot in the city suitable for receiving them.  The City could, however, still be in complete control of the process, as it is now.

6. Legal quibbling aside, the bottom line for the West Side Tennis Club and their Forest Hills Gardens neighbors is simple.  With a TDR provision amended to be harmlessly more flexible as in other cities, the Club might realize as much financial gain from landmarking as they would from selling their property--and without adding still more housing to the neighborhood or losing the stadium’s open space and still-uncompromised historic character.  And by updating its oddly narrow rules, City Hall could at the same time extend TDR benefits to other places in Queens and the other outer boroughs with landmarks worth saving.

What’s not to like about that?

- John L. Gann, Jr.
President
Gann Associates
Glen Ellyn, IL
(800) 762-GANN

P.S. I have prepared density transfer provisions and other “win/win” zoning regulations as a consultant to other cities and been published nationwide on zoning issues.  I was born and grew up in Kew Gardens and went to school in Forest Hills.

TDR Doesn't Apply
Queens Tribune
September 30, 2010

Source: http://www.queenstribune.com/inyour/Your%20Opinion_093010.html

To The Editor:
     As John L. Gann points out in his Sept. 16 letter about the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, cities can often use a transferable development rights program to create “win/win” results for the municipality and the owner of a landmark site with unused development rights. Under such programs these rights can be transferred to, and used on, nearby sites.

New York City, as Gann noted, has just such a program which can be found at Section 74-79 of the City’s Zoning Resolution. Indeed, it was a pioneer in the field. Section 74-79 allows unused development rights for landmark sites not only to be transferred to adjacent properties but also across public streets. There are, however, conditions imposed by the section. Most important for any discussion of the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium is the fact that Section 74-79 is not applicable in low density residential zoning districts such as the R3 and R4 districts that surround the stadium.

As the Tennis Stadium and the areas to the east and south are mapped within an R3 zoning district, and the west side of 69th Avenue, directly across the street from the Tennis Stadium is mapped in R4 and R4B districts, the New York City program that permits the transfer of development rights from landmarked structures cannot be used as Gann proposes. Further, even if Section 74-79 were available in this case, there is no appropriate receiving site for development rights, as building in R3 and R4 zoning districts are capped at maximum heights of 35 feet. Those properties that are located directly across the street from the Tennis Stadium are already fully developed with single family homes.

When it created the TDR program decades ago, the City Planning Commission had good policy reasons for excluding lower density districts such as Forest Hills Gardens from the program. In light of the realities of the City’s TDR program, we believe it is time to take a fresh look at the adaptive reuse being proposed for the Tennis Stadium and allow the community to consider the contribution that the proposed project will be making.

- Sal Panico,
President and CEO,
Cord Meyer Company


TDR + Landmarking = Win-Win for Forest Hills Tennis Stadium
Queens Tribune: Tennis History
September 16, 2010Source: http://www.queenstribune.com/inyour/Your%20Opinion_091610.html


To The Editor:


     In the center ring of the tennis world at the moment is another U.S. Open. Off to one side is some action reported in these pages that could be of much greater consequence to the legacy of the sport. The Open's traditional home, the shuttered 1923 West Side Tennis Club stadium in Forest Hills, may not survive.

Unused for matches since 1978, the stadium has decayed despite a brief second life as a concert venue. The Club is to vote Sept. 23 on sale of the property to developer Cord Meyer for a reported $9 million for redevelopment in condominiums.

It is zoned for residential and not protected as an historic landmark by New York City law. Although the developer says it will preserve the historic stadium fa├žade, city regulations would not legally bar its demolition, nor, it seems, would the private covenants of the elite Forest Hills Gardens community. The Tennis Industry Association has endorsed landmarking, and political leaders from the area have asked the city to study the feasibility of such designation.

With good reason. Tennis history in the United States has a name: Forest Hills, the Wimbledon of the New World. The upscale sport has made Forest Hills the only neighborhood in this oft-ignored borough known around the globe. No surprise that the community is probably the most sought-after place to live in Queens.

Tennis put Forest Hills on the map and gave it a classy brand. And just as with consumer products, an esteemed brand is a value-enhancing economic asset to a neighborhood and its residents and property owners. The Forest Hills tennis brand may be worth a lot more than just a few more housing units in an already crowded part of the city. Every residential neighborhood in New York has housing. Only one has a revered historic tennis center.

Smart companies are reawakening to the economic value of the brands that helped make them successful. ExxonMobil has revived its decades-old flying red horse with that in mind. Viewed in terms of the value of branding, the movement to save the stadium is more than just nostalgic sentimentality.

Understandably, the Tennis Club has not sought landmark status that might limit its options. Ordinances that bar demolition or substantial alteration of historic buildings have raised serious property rights issues in New York and elsewhere when they in effect ask private property owners to pay for the benefit to the public of continuing to enjoy an undisturbed historic building. But without such protections, cities can lose irreplaceable treasures like the predecessor of today's Penn Station, the demolition of which energized historic preservation in this city.

There is, however, an as yet little-noted win-win solution that New York invented. It has been used to preserve historic structures, open spaces and environmental areas nationwide while keeping property owners whole.

Transferable Development Rights (TDR) can move the development potential defined by the zoning of such properties to another site and allow the property owner to be compensated for the loss. Landmark the stadium, build the number of new homes allowed on its site somewhere else, and pay the Tennis Club what they would have realized from the sale for redevelopment. The stadium could then neither be razed nor otherwise developed but might be devoted to neighborhood-compatible low-intensity uses.

TDR can be complex to work out. But even in crowded New York, there are other places for more housing. There's only one Forest Hills. Retaining the visible evidence of decades-long association with an upscale sport by a place with an international reputation may be a better bet economically than building on its few remaining square feet of open land.

A player who loses at the Open can come back. A venerated historic building that is lost cannot. Holding off on a sale to consider TDR and other uses a rehabilitated stadium could be put to might be the best course. More housing is surely the least imaginative solution to the future of a very special place.
- John L. Gann, Jr.
Cleveland, Ohio


John L. Gann, Jr., President of Gann Associates, has prepared historic preservation regulations and other land use codes for Cleveland and other cities and now consults on marketing cities. He is a graduate of Forest Hills High School.