The fate of the West Side Tennis Club’s stadium will be decided this Thursday, when members were scheduled to vote on whether the site should be sold to a Forest Hills developer and turned into luxury apartments.
Cord Meyer Development Corp. said it would pay about $9 million to purchase the 2.5 acres on which the stadium stands. It plans to retain the stadium’s shell in which it would build about 75 residential units. The iconic but dilapidated stadium housed the US Open from 1915-77, and club members said they were entertaining selling it because the club has sunk into debt.
Two-thirds of the club’s 290 or so voting members would need to approve the sale, which has drawn both ire and praise from community members, some of whom say the historic stadium should be preserved while others say the deteriorated structure should be sold.
Controversy surrounding the sale of the stadium prompted one WSTC board member to recently resign, according to Forest Hills resident and tennis club voting member Christine Schott. Members said they could not release the board member’s name because he did not wish it to be public.
“It’s about 50/50,” Schott said of voting members’ positions for and against selling the stadium. “But in order to get this passed the board needs two-thirds of eligible voting members to vote for the sale of the stadium, and they don’t have that.”
Despite members being split on the stadium’s sale, Schott said the tornado that wreaked havoc across the borough, heavily damaging Forest Hills and the stadium, inspired more unity.
“It brought a lot of club members back together and that was one of the good things that came out of this,” Schott said. “Hopefully, we’ll try to work together in finding the right solution.”
City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), who has voiced concern over Cord Meyer’s plans as well as the stadium’s disrepair, said she was anxious to see what would happen with the vote, which had been moved from Sept. 23 to Oct. 7 because of the tornado. The storm took out a number of trees at the club and damaged the courts, members said.
“My concern is the stadium itself is not stable,” Koslowitz said. “During the tornado, I passed it to make sure it was still standing.”
Koslowitz, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) in August wrote to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission and asked city officials to look into the feasibility of landmarking the stadium.
A number of residents who live near the stadium, but are not tennis club members, said they supported preserving the facility.
“I want the stadium as a landmark,” said Bobbie Jaray, who has lived across the street from the stadium for 56 years. “I’d hate to see it torn down. It’s amazing, the history that happened here. I’d see the tennis stars walking from the subway to the club. I met Billie Jean King, Stan Smith and many others.”
But tennis club member and Forest Hills resident Suzan Causey said it would be better to sell the stadium to Cord Meyer.
“I want to think back on the stadium the way it was in its glory, not as a morbid ruin that should no longer be on life support and to let it be remembered by the photos, archives, the memories of the legends who played there, past and present,” Causey wrote in a previous e-mail. “For this, I do agree with, pending fine tuning, the proposal by Cord Meyer to WSTC.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson
©2010 Community News Group
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