Ace Plan for Tennis-Friendly McCarren Makeover

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McCarren Park has the space and the potential to be an incredible tennis facility but unfortunately the city has let the current courts deteriorate to the point where they’re barely usable. Frustrated by this situation, a group of regulars has decided to try to take matters into their own hands. The band of self-described tennis nuts has envisioned a multi-step, multi-year plan for turning McCarren into a tennis center to rival the one in Prospect Park. And why not? In the short-term, all the group (called McCarren Tennis) is trying to accomplish is a simple resurfacing and installation of wind screens; they’ve already gotten the support of the Open Space Alliance for that. Stages 2, 3 and 4 involve the addition of more courts and the creation of a pavilion in the middle of them all. Ambitious? Sure. Crazy? Not really. All the developers who still have skin in the game in the neighborhood should be lining up to write a check for this. Not everyone will be pleased with the idea–some of the folks who enjoy a good game of concrete softball on the adjacent lot, for example. They might not realize, however, that the entire area was originally devoted exclusively to tennis once upon a time. To get the ball rolling, the group is holding a fundraiser tournament on the weekend of October 10th with a DJ party on Saturday night when the tennis is wrapped up. More info here.

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  • Tennis? wtf? this is NYC! barf.

    *rob*

  • “They might not realize, however, that the entire area was originally devoted exclusively to tennis once upon a time.”

    How is this relevant? Once upon a time sheep grazed where Central Park is today and dinosaurs roamed the earth — things change.

    I drive by there sometimes and I’ve seen people playing “concrete softball” lots of times. I really couldn’t care less what they do with this area, don’t live near there, but when your inherent knee-jerk elitism comes out it really is pretty damned annoying.

    For another thing, I can’t imagine that the appetite for tennis in Greenpoint/Williamsburg is quite on the same level as Park Slope.

  • “For another thing, I can’t imagine that the appetite for tennis in Greenpoint/Williamsburg is quite on the same level as Park Slope. ”

    What is the basis for that assumption?

  • dittoburg

    DH – the basis would be Jail Bait’s knee-jerk stereotyping I’d guess.

  • OK – thanks ditto, just wanted to clarify

  • dittoburg

    Rob, I don’t get your comment. Tennis has long been associated with NYC. Heard of Flushing Meadows?

  • Isn’t it a bit of an antiquated notion that only “elites” like to play tennis?

  • quote:
    Isn’t it a bit of an antiquated notion that only “elites” like to play tennis?

    not really.

    *rob*

  • “Isn’t it a bit of an antiquated notion that only “elites” like to play tennis?”

    Absolutely – especially if more places like this open that provide free court time.

  • elites and wannabe elites.

  • yeah there’s 500x better things that would serve the community better, EVERYONE in the community. tennis is not is.

    *rob*

  • dittoburg

    Jeeze, you lot are very sheltered. Squash, croquet, polo – thats for elites. Tennis – for elites?!! Do you also think that cheese whiz is the standard and that cheddar is for Hamptons wannabes?

  • So what do you propose they turn tennis courts in to to serve the community better?

    It’s park space – they can’t exactly build a methadone clinic on it.

  • outdoor roller rink? i dont know. tennis is so zzzz. but maybe it will make the longtime residents exercise and not be so obese. (and YES there IS an obesity problem in the outer boros) so maybe this isnt that bad.

    *rob*

  • Elitist? You can get a shitty racket at King’s and a can of balls for $2. Not too many sports you can start playing for $20.

  • Elitist? You can get a shitty racket at King’s and a can of balls for $2. Not too many sports you can start playing for $20.

  • nice to know we can get your can, “balls” for two bux!

    *rob*

  • I grew up poor as hell, and played tennis on public courts all the time. This would actually be great.

  • I have used the courts in Greenpoint over the years and you’d be surprised how popular the courts are, especially with the Poles (at least before most them were priced out of the neighborhood). However, tennis is NOT free in NYC. You have to buy a permit to play on the city courts and it costs $100 for an adult/much cheaper for kids. That keeps tennis out of the hands of many NYers, and in that sense it is elitist. Also, why not try to commandeer some land laying fallow around the high school instead of taking away a ball field that also gets lots of use. I have to say these bourgeios arguments of, well, the ball field used to be tennis courts or there used to be a street running through Pratt’s campus are pretty disgusting. These arguments attempt to create objective justifications for what is really only a personal desire. The real argument being concealed is- we want it our way and we’ll use any ridiculous argument as a justification for getting our way.

  • I wonder if the person who thinks there isn’t as much interest in playing tennis in Greenpoint has ever tried to get a court at McCarren Park during prime hours… it can be brutal!

  • Tennis is fun, ever play it? The courts in Fort Greene Park are filled most of the summer. The new pool, the track, the improved lighting and new trees are all great improvements to the area.

    I guess I don’t understand the whole ‘keeping it real’ BS that begs to keep the city just as it was when we were little kids or to some idealized era. It’s Williamsburg Brooklyn (New York City the city that never sleeps), not an urban version of Colonial Williamsburg, we needn’t call in the Met’s restoration experts to put lucite over the graffiti. The more opportunities to experience different sports/activities the better regardless of the socio-economic background of those picking up a racket or taking a swim lesson for the first time. Calling something (like tennis) elitist ensures that it will remain a privileged activity.

  • dittoburg

    orestes, how about acknowledging the abundance of concrete ball courts in the area? where else in 11211 or 11222 can one play tennis?

  • dittobrg, why don’t you list them? –and don’t list any spaces not under the control of the parks department, because you cannot get a permit for them. CB1 has one of the lowest ratios in the city for open space-to-population, and that figure is from before the recent émigrés moved there.

    Now that I’ve backed up the softball players (yeah, it’s kind of a pun), I’ll add that orestes’ and Ian’s comments about the demand for tennis court time in Greenpoint is spot on.

  • I agree with altervoce- if you believe there are an “abundance” of concrete playing fields in the vicinity, prove it. Furthermore, I thought you would understand from my post that I am all for tennis courts in Greenpoint. I merely suggested that other available land be used (it’s pretty desolate behind the school) before taking away recreation space that is just as heavily used as the tennis courts. I simply don’t believe that one group’s preferences (and I bet the people behind this tennis initiative (hats off to them) are privileged newcomers to the neighborhood)should supercede the use of public land by others who may be less vocal/organized/politically savvy. Just because you may be able to travel twenty minutes to another field does not justify taking away the one that has been embraced and enjoyed by the community.

  • very well put orestes.

    *rob*

  • c’mon … I watched the finals of USOpen on tv…don’t tell me this is not a sport directed at the elite. Look at the people in audience, who the advertisers, sponsors were,etc. Get tennis magazine and what demographic they are aiming at.
    Yes, you don’t have to be affluent to play but it helps.
    Question is does the number of people who play, use the courts justify the amount of space (really valuable commodity in city, neighborhoods where parkspace is scarce),
    money for upkeep, etc. Maybe, maybe not.

  • DH, Dittoburg — Do you think there is more of an interest in tennis in Greenpoint or Park Slope? The answer is Park Slope. That is called a fact.

    Tennis courts are always packed no matter where they are. So are golf courses. That’s because relative to the amount of space they take up, less people can use them per unit of time. That is also called a fact.

    That concrete ballfield is pretty heavily used. Another fact.

    I think Mr. B is elitist. That’s an opinion.

  • I have to agree with Orestes, pete and jail bait on this. Public space for other sports shouldn’t be taken away to be made into tennis courts. I won’t get into the elitist or not argument- I just think tennis courts mean less people able to use and enjoy the space.

  • “DH, Dittoburg — Do you think there is more of an interest in tennis in Greenpoint or Park Slope? The answer is Park Slope. That is called a fact. ”

    Actually – the above statement is an opinion. It doesn’t matter how many times you say its a fact, its still an opinion til you provide some supporting evidence. Until then you just sound like a misinformed, entitled Park Sloper who happens to have a tennis racket.

  • Try again DH.

    Don’t live in Park slope, don’t own a tennis racket.

    Those are also facts, BTW.

  • I’m part of the McCarren Tennis group. No one is taking the existing softball field away from anyone. Yes, there were 21 courts there in the early 80s, but I agree that isn’t the point. What’s happening is this: the city is kindly building a bunch of new softball fields (these are not made out of asphalt) down by the water, so the city plan is to move softball from the current site to those new courts. At that point — and only if that happens, and provided McCarren Tennis can raise the money — they will begin construction of new courts. Certainly the city won’t pay for it.

    Also, there are no less than 2 grass softball fields within one block of the asphalt softball field in question. I play on those tennis courts a lot and the only time the softball field gets used is on weekends, which we all notice because occasionally we have to dodge softballs hit over the fence. The tennis courts are packed on weekends (and some weekday mornings) to a point of waiting several hours to get on. Finally, it’s worth considering that tennis courts turn over every hour, so 14 people per hour play on those 7 courts. Multiplied by 8 or 10 hours of use, those courts can support 140 people per day (more if people play doubles). It’s 1/2 the area of the softball field, which means that on a per person basis, the softball field would need to serve about 280 people per day to have the same public benefit. I can’t say whether it does or doesn’t — but I certainly don’t think that anyone should suggest that tennis courts are not an efficient public recreation facility.

    Anyway, I like softball and am glad we have it in NYC. But I love tennis and I believe that the City of New York is actually anti-tennis, as some crying “elitism” here also seem to be. The city charges tennis players $7 per hour, or $100 per year, to play. Absolutely none of that money goes directly to tennis courts, but instead subsidizes sports that are free, like handball, softball, etc. Second, those courts in Williamsburg are packed, but they haven’t been repaired in 15 years or more. Compare this to the brand-spanking-new restoration of the rest of McCarren Park and you have to wonder. Finally, it’s worth noting that the city is building new parks all over Williamsburg. None of those parks contain tennis courts — but they do contain softball fields and soccer pitches.

    You be the judge. Tennis may not be for everyone, but this is the home of the US Open and there are a lot of underserved players here. McCarren Tennis is trying to help.

  • I only said that tennis is certainly geared, marketed and targeted to affluent, elite, whatever. But that open to debate whether uses the space as tennis courts worth it, efficient most beneficial. Certainly left open that was possibility.

  • Velour- to be fair, the city is not planning on moving softball to a new park, it plans to include baseball fields in a new waterfront park (which proposed park is this?) and because there will be new fields, we will convert the present one to tennis courts. I would also bet that demand for the tennis courts is met during the week (the same time the softball field is vacant). Of course, all recreational facilities are more heavily used on the weekends and evenings. Finally, I think your use estimate is very aggressive.

    I think it’s a great idea to have more tennis courts in the neighborhood and applaud your willingness to raise private funds to make it happen. But why don’t you lobby the city to include tennis courts in the new waterfront park? That would also alleviate the unmet demand for courts and allow greater access to residents (ie, people closer to the new park will go there to play tennis).

    I’m also curious about the specifics. Will the courts remain public? Is the city permitting private citizens to contract and build on a public park or will the funds be handed to the city to make the necessary renovations? Who decides how much money must be raised? Who will be responsible for upkeep? With all of these issues to resolve, I truly don’t understand why building new courts in the new park is not the best solution. Have you lobbied to have tennis courts added to the new park? What kind of response did you receive?

    I am a big tennis fan (although I don’t get to play that often) and would welcome additional courts in the neighborhood, but I have to admit I get a slightly uneasy feeling about this proposal. I fear the end result will be new tennis courts and no new ball fields (notwithstanding the city’s stated intention).

  • “c’mon … I watched the finals of USOpen on tv…don’t tell me this is not a sport directed at the elite. Look at the people in audience, who the advertisers, sponsors were,etc. ”

    That’s like concluding that football is a sport directed at the elite because of who’s in attendence at the Super Bowl. And even if it were, so what? Opera has a very elitist image, but reality is that tickets to the Met are far less expensive than those to the Mets. And the reality of the National Tennis Center is that except for about six weeks a year around U.S. Open time, that is a public faciltiy where anyone can play or take lessons. I’m pretty sure you can’t do that at Yankee Stadium.

    Velour’s post was very spot-on, except those 14 players per hour can be up to twice as high when people play doubles.

    The courts in Hudson River Park just north of Canal Street don’t charge a fee or require a permit. And the truth is that you’ll rarely be asked to show your permit at many public parks around Brooklyn. I’ve played many times at Friends Field (Avenue L and E. 4th), Kelly Park (Avenue S & E 14th) and the courts under the Verrazano Bridge approach, and never been asked for my permit.

  • Orestes, these are all fair points. As to which park, I’m referring to the new waterfront park along the East River in Williamsburg. This park does include baseball fields, and doesn’t include tennis courts, as you note.

    First thing I should say is that the ONLY thing that has been approved at this point is that we resurface the existing seven courts, put up new nets, and get new windscreens. Surely no one is against that. In the long term, we’d like to see that blacktop become tennis courts, but that will involve community and political approval, so it’s very far from guaranteed to happen. I do happen to think that softball is better played on grass, and given those new courts, i hope we can at least make our case that it makes sense to expand tennis. But hey, if softball wins out, I could be content to at least have 7 nice, refurbished courts — that’s goal #1.

    As for the specifics:

    1. The courts will ABSOLUTELY remain public. That’s why we’re doing this.
    2. The OSA is collecting the funds. They are the not-for-profit that was put in charge of McCarren by the NYC Parks Department. They have approved Phase 1 (resurfacing/windscreens) and nothing else.
    3. We’re deciding how much money is raised, based on the cost of resurfacing, new nets, and windscreens.
    4. Upkeep hopefully will be continued by the city, but this would clearly require getting the city to contribute at least a portion of the permitting fees to the courts. Right now that money hits a general pool and gets spent elsewhere. If we get to phase 3, we probably can make the courts self-sustaining by allowing league play, clinics and lessons, just as Prospect Park does.

    In general, is there any reason why ball fields SHOULD take priority over courts? I’m definitely in favor of ball fields, and parks — more parks! — but given that there already are more ball fields being built, I’m a bit unclear as to why you’d be uneasy about more courts!

  • Velour, thanks for the information. I am not opposed to more tennis courts at all and appreciate that you and others are willing to undertake efforts to create more and better courts. I will confess that I am uncomfortable with taking away a space that has been used for the 19 years I’ve lived here (and before) by the people who have lived here all of their lives to meet the needs predominantly of a new demographic. That is why I think new courts in the new park are preferable- no one is displaced and we have a lot of happy tennis players/fans. That’s all.

  • Also, I think it’s better to have more courts spread around the city to meet the needs of more communities (as in the new park). Of course, I don’t expect you would disagree with this and I respect your prerogative to try to do what you can.

  • “The city charges tennis players $7 per hour, or $100 per year, to play. Absolutely none of that money goes directly to tennis courts, but instead subsidizes sports that are free, like handball, softball, etc.”

    First off, my recollection of most of the weekend softball games at Bedford and North 12th is league play, which is permitted, which means there is a fee. Furthermore, per law, almost all income of any sort goes into the general fund and when it comes out the other end, who knows what it is spent on. New tires for a fire truck, for all we know. Tennis fees, or fees to swim at Met Pool, don’t subsidize anything.

    I suspect the decision about what fields to build on the waterfront is driven in large part by what sports children play. Yes, some kids (both ragamuffins and snobs) play tennis, but not as many as soccer.