NEW YORK (AP) -- A $500 million expansion of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, site of the U.S. Open championships, was approved Wednesday.
The New York City Council voted 47-1 to expand the center in Queens after elected officials negotiated with the U.S Tennis Association for concessions intended to benefit the community.
The plan allows the 46-acre tennis center to annex a 0.68-acre parcel that is now city parkland in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. In return, city officials and parks advocates secured concessions including more than $10 million for improvements to the park.
"This deal was a long time coming, and I can say with confidence that we will benefit from this expansion," City Council member Julissa Ferreras said.
A USTA statement said the expansion plans include the replacement and renovation of "aging, out-of-date infrastructure and facilities that have reached the end of their useful lives." The statement quoted USTA executive director Gordon Smith as saying: "We are confident that in partnership with the local Queens communities and elected officials, we will ensure a better Flushing Meadows Corona Park and National Tennis Center."
Ferreras, whose district includes the tennis center, said the USTA also agreed to help start a nonprofit group to help fund Flushing Meadows similar to the Central Park Conservancy. In addition, Ferreras said, the USTA agreed to host an annual job fair for Queens residents and to allow area high schools to hold their graduation ceremonies at the center. She said the agreement also includes tennis coaching programs for local children.
Community groups that had pressured the USTA for concessions applauded the deal.
"Today's approval heralds a new era for Flushing Meadows Corona Park," said Holly Leicht, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks.
The group said in a statement that the USTA "has committed to increase its engagement with the surrounding community as well as its investment in the park."
Javier Valdes, a member of the Fairness Coalition of Queens, said the agreement "will put Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the surrounding community on a more solid footing for the future."
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