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In the same week that Mayor Bloomberg was announcing the Draconian measurers that he may be forced to take if the state does not come up with more money to help balance the city's budget, the USTA was announcing a $50 million upgrade to the tennis stadiums in Flushing. The money will be used to add new courts and additional seats. It will also fund the construction of new concession stands where the privileged few can spend their money on overpriced refreshments.
The construction, which is expected to be completed in 2005, will be financed through the sale of taxable and nontaxable bonds. Although most Queens residents have never seen the inside of this stadium, they will be expected to pay the interest on these bonds. It is very difficult to imagine why a stadium built just six years ago should need such costly repairs.
Talk about bad timing. The USTA announced the repairs in the same week that the mayor was warning that because of the budget crisis, he may have to close the Queens Zoo just a stone's throw away.
Fans of the USTA might argue that the stadiums and the US Open generate millions of dollars each year in revenue for the city. And they would be right. Nevertheless, it is at best a thoughtless blunder to spend millions of dollars on a refreshment stand that serves the fortunate few when a zoo that brings joy to thousands of families each year may have to close.
Hats off to City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) for introducing legislation that would require the City Council to listen to the people they represent before passing another tax hike. The Fair and Open Tax Act of 2003 would require the Council to hold public hearings in each borough and wait at least 120 days before approving a property tax increase.
We have said more than once that we saw no way of getting around some sort of property or income tax hike. The city has reached the limit on how much spending can be cut. Much of the city's expenditures are mandated by law. And despite the lofty notion of doing more with less, there is only so much that can be cut from agency budgets without damaging their ability to deliver core services.
Avella's bill would give voters the opportunity to ask questions and to have their say before another tax hike is passed. Such legislation only makes sense. In this way, the council members are forced to take ownership of their decisions.
The controversial property tax increase was passed in just 11 days. That is breathtakingly fast. The Council in this Caesar became nothing more than a rubberstamp.
A quote in an April 10 editorial criticizing the land swap in which the Port Authority would be given control of both airports in Queens was incorrectly attributed to Assemblyman Michael Gianaris. It should have been attributed to Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik (D-Flushing).
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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