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Mayor lauds tennis center shunned by Rudy Giuliani

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In her early days as borough president, Helen Marshall urged the city to scuttle the $1.6 million proposal by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to build two new baseball stadiums.

Citing a 30,000-seat shortage in the borough’s school system, she asked Mayor Michael Bloomberg to consider the model used by the United States Tennis Association, which built its current facility in Flushing Meadows Corona Park using private money.

Not only did Bloomberg sideline Giuliani’s stadium plan, but last week he borrowed the other half of Marshall’s argument, calling the National Tennis Center “the only good sports stadium deal not just in New York but in the country.”

During a radio interview with former Mayor David Dinkins, Bloomberg extolled the financing of the Queens facility and said he would most likely attend the United States Open this summer.

“I’m forced to agree with you,” Dinkins, a tennis lover, replied.

In one of his final acts as mayor, Dinkins negotiated a privately funded agreement with the USTA for an expansion of the center, including a 23,000-seat stadium named after player Arthur Ashe.

His successor had sharply criticized the deal, tearing into a lease provision that the city be fined up to $325,000 if planes flying overhead disrupted the U.S. Open tournament.

Giuliani never attended a U.S. Open match and stayed away from the 1997 ceremony that celebrated the opening of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

In another highly publicized reversal of a long-standing Giuliani position, Bloomberg last week altered Giuliani’s plans to turn newly renovated Tweed Courthouse in Lower Manhattan into the Museum of the City of New York. The new mayor wants to move the Board of Education headquarters into the courthouse as well as a school.

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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