Saving history in Forest Hills

May 18, 2012 by  

There has long been debate about the future of the historic West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills. New York City Council finance chair Dominic Recchia, however, is one person determined to preserve it. As recently as this March, Recchia said:

“Let’s use this. Let’s fix it up. Let’s not destroy it. There’s history here.”

Its historical significance is unquestionable. In its heyday, the club hosted the concerts of such musical luminaries as Barbara Streisand and the Beatles. It was also home to the U.S. Open, a staple of championship tennis, from 1915 to 1977. It was here, in 1968, that Arthur Ashe won world acclaim as the first black man to win a Grand Slam tournament.

The years have seen a dramatic decline in the club’s fortunes. First opened in 1892, it was a tennis lover’s haven until the U.S. Open moved to the Billie Jean King Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Today, though tennis is still played on the club’s courts, crumbling concrete on the exterior walls and unusable seating are visible signs of the facility’s decay.

However, recent proposals bode well for the club’s future. The Stadium Arts Alliance is floating a plan that would renovate the facility as a year-round, multi-use center for sports and concerts. For residents, the return of winter ice-skating and high-profile music performers is a welcome idea. Area businesses can also get behind the concept. Companies that offer poster printing and banner printing recognize the customer potential from an organization that has constant publicity needs.

Club members hope to make a decision on the property’s fate in the next few months. Many in the Forest Hills community are keeping their fingers crossed the facility’s history-laden past will keep it standing.