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U.S. Open Tennis Faults on $311k in Queens Rent: Comptroller

The U.S. Open finals on Sept 9, 2018, as Novak Djokovic bested Juan del Potro.
The U.S. Open finals on Sept 9, 2018, as Novak Djokovic bested Juan del Potro. Photo: Christine Chung/THE CITY

Visitors are already starting to descend on Queens to attend the U.S. Open tennis tournament, which holds court in Flushing Meadows Corona Park next week.

Last year, a record of nearly 830,000 spectators passed through the United States Tennis Association’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

But according to a new audit by city Comptroller Scott Stringer, the USTA has not been playing fair with the city.

The comptroller’s probe found that from 2014 to 2017, the USTA failed to report $31 million in revenue, which would mean it owes more than $311,000 in additional rent to the city. In 2016 and 2017, USTA paid $6.6 million each year in rent to the city.

The audit finds USTA underreported benefits received from other companies and fees and took inappropriate deductions.

The USTA may also owe an additional $82,000 because of discrepancies in financial reports, Stringer’s office found.

The comptroller’s review also determined the lease’s restrictions on access to records hinders closer city oversight of the USTA’s finances.

“Any corporate entity leasing land from the city must pay its fair share of rent – no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The Tennis Center collects more than $300 million annually, and yet, it shortchanges city taxpayers,” Stringer said in a statement. “This arrangement should be a win-win, not just ‘advantage’ USTA.”

Oversight Issues Cited

Under a 99-year lease that began in 1993, the Tennis Association rents a section of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, paying an annual fee of $400,000, plus 1% of net gross revenues exceeding $20 million.

The USTA, which could not immediately be reached for comment, has contested the audit, according to Stringer’s office.

Some Queens residents said that the park doesn’t feel like theirs during the U.S. Open, calling the Grand Slam tournament a complete takeover of the 1,255-acre park.

David Pastor, 29, a member of grassroots group Queens Neighborhoods United, said that the park is usually a safe haven for immigrant families and contended that this community character gets “overridden” around tournament time.

“I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never even thought to go. It’s super expensive,” Pastor said. “You have to question who it’s for.”

First-round tickets start at $75 while ducats for the tournament’s final day are upwards of $320, with resale tickets priced as high as $8,000.

Kevin Montalvo, 31, a Jackson Heights resident and director of the Queens Marathon, said locals are forced to deal with a slew of inconveniences from the tournament — increased chaos, police barricades, and traffic congestion — with very little upside.

“There isn’t that much of the U.S. Open getting out in front and saying, ‘Hey come on out enjoy what Queens has to offer,’” Montalvo added.

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