By David Russell
With the US Open taking place at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives released an audio clip focusing on a time when the tournament was in danger of being taken out of the area.
The tournament moved from Forest Hills to Flushing in 1978, and for over a decade the air traffic was distracting.
So much so, that the United States Tennis Association considered moving the tournament out of New York when its lease was set to expire in 1994.
In the audio clip, U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, once an aide to Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, talks about how they were able to save the tournament in 1990.
The audio was recorded at a restaurant in Flushing during a party honoring Shulman. Each person told a favorite story about the Borough President.
“And then one day, Claire came into my office and said ‘you gotta move the airplanes at the US Open or they’re going to leave. You go see your friends at the FAA and you tell them I want those planes moved,’” Garaufis says in the clip.
“I said ‘but Claire, it’s the federal government. We don’t move airplanes, they move airplanes.’”
“I know you’re friendly with them. You go tell them to move the airplanes. So I went and I told them that we would like, please, can you please move the airplanes?”
The response from the FAA was surprising.
“They said ‘if Claire Shulman publicly says that she wants the airplanes moved, we will move the airplanes.’ She was very influential.”
The FAA also wanted the mayor on board. This could have been an issue if Ed Koch, whose only interest in sports was finding his way into Mets celebrations, was still the mayor. Garaufis had no concerns about then-mayor David Dinkins.
“They said it’d be nice if the mayor agreed with that, too,” Garaufis said in the audio clip. “And it turned out that the new mayor agreed with it and we knew he would because he was a big tennis fan.”
The LaGuardia and Wagner Archives was established in 1982 and is part of LaGuardia Community College. The Archives hold the papers and documents of Mayors Fiorello LaGuardia, Robert Wagner, Abraham Beane, and Ed Koch.
“We like to focus on Queens,” said Richard Lieberman, Director of the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives. “Queens gets ignored in the history of New York. It’s usually about Manhattan.”