One Set of UWS Tennis Courts Has Reopened, Before Others in the City

The courts before the pandemic.

Tennis courts are expected to start opening next Monday, but one set of courts on the Upper West Side got a head start. The Riverside Clay Tennis Association, which has 10 courts in Riverside Park around West 96th Street, opened on Monday. The courts are available for public use, but are privately managed and offer lessons.

The Central Park courts are still listed as closed on the Parks Department website.

Some players at other courts are frustrated about having to wait when the Riverside Courts are already open, they told The City news site.

“If the city has determined that the reopening for tennis courts falls under Phase 3, then that should be applicable to all public courts,” said Hope, a 63-year-old tennis player from Washington Heights who asked that her last name not be used.

Reached by phone on Monday, McIntyre told THE CITY two top leaders at the conservancy, Garodnick and John Herrold, asked the Parks Department if the courts could reopen. Their request was granted, McIntyre said.

“I don’t see how that’s unfair,” McIntyre said when informed of the complaints. “I’m astonished anybody would say that.”

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 23 comments | permalink
    1. Johnny says:

      So Hope is mad that one set of courts is actually open a week ahead of time? That makes a ton of sense! She must be a blast at cocktail parties.

      Great job by the 96th Staff to get these courts playable and open a week early.

      • hope says:

        The point is RCTA received special consideration by City Hall.
        I’m willing to bet that if the tables were turned, you wouldn’t be too happy either, especially with a long weekend coming up.
        On another note, it’s also ridiculous that the courts at Riverbank State Park reopened when NYS entered Phase 1 many weeks ago – despite the fact that NYC was still weeks away from entering its Phase 1, with tennis categorized under Phase 3 no less.

        • Johnny says:

          Well, I think we can agree that Tennis being Phase 3 is ridiculous, but that is a separate issue.

          Personally, if I wanted to play so badly a week early, I wouldn’t mind travelling a little bit, but I guess everyone is different.

          Enjoy playing once you get out there!

    2. UWScarzzy says:

      Yay for the RCTA! It’s honestly pretty absurd that it’s taking this long for the public courts to reopen, considering tennis is one of the safest leisure activities right now.

      Central Park is currently open for lessons only, on the four hard courts (the clay courts there are operated by the Parks Dept.).

    3. chris says:

      As far as Health Concerns… why is Hope not complaining about State managed courts and private ones? The State managed ones opened **weeks** ago. So basically the fact that all NYC courts are still closed in on DeBlasio not have his act together as usual. Hope should maybe read a paper every now and then and maybe WestSideRag might want to point these facts out for thorough reporting.

      • Hope says:

        Oh, so nice to be insulted by a stranger.
        My friends and family know me to be a news junkie.
        The fact that I worked for a prestigious newspaper for
        25 years may just have something to do with my passion for news – global, national, state and local.
        But I digress – I did mention the Riverbank State Park Courts in my conversation with the reporter. I don’t know
        why it wasn’t included. See reply to Johnny above.

    4. Michelle says:

      “If I can’t have it, no one should!” – Hope

    5. Jim says:

      Let me start by saying I am a tennis addict and the red clay courts were my home for many years. So I am happy that courts which should never have been closed in the first place are re-opening. But the idea that RCTA could finagle its way into opening a week prior to other city courts is symptomatic of a larger corruption issue and boondoggle in which RCTA has long been embroiled. To call the red clay courts “privately managed” is a very nice way of saying that the courts are used for private profit, contrary both to good public policy and to their own contract with the city. (This was all pointed out in an expose published in West Side Rag in 2018 – The fact is that RCTA does not serve the public good and is not accountable to the public. Just ask for financial information re: staff salaries and get ready for the big stone wall. Now RCTA has used undue influence with Riverside Park “administrator” John Herrold who helped begin this boondoggle of privatization back in the late 1990’s. Yes, if I were a tennis player anywhere else in the city’s five boroughs I too would be outraged at preferential treatment being given to RCTA. Mark McIntyre’s response in the article is typical of him: “I don’t see how that’s unfair.” Of course it’s not unfair to him as he created the situation. I’ve been told that Mark earns six figures to run RCTA, and actually hired a well-salaried assistant to do the work that he used to do. That’s how flush with cash RCTA is. And this episode shows how flush with influence they are as well.

      • AnDee says:

        Plenty of misinformation here. As a former RCTA board member, I’ve seen the numbers and can assure you Mark doesn’t earn six figures. But he has revitalized a jewel that offers all New Yorkers the opportunity to play on red clay, and take lessons to improve their game at a cost that is cheaper than what would be paid at a private club. Most of the money that isn’t poured into maintaining the courts (and there’s no way the Parks department would or should devote that much to maintaining clay courts) have been used to support summer camp scholarships to make their camp (sadly not happening this summer) accessible to lots of kids who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Kudos to Mark.

        • Jim says:

          What is the misinformation? Re: Mark’s salary this is what several people have been told Off the record by several current and former board members.

          It would be easily solved if RCTA or Mark would simply disclose the salaries – which they refuse to do. Everything you say ignores the fact that these are PUBLIC tennis courts run by a private corporation that has neither transparency or accountability

          In real: misinformation are you disputing that the contract between RCTA and Parks does not permit these money making activities? Are you disputing Mark’s own revenue numbers? Really bring something more to the table than your fondness for Mark and gratitude that there are red clay tennis courts.

          Those courts were run perfectly well for many years before Mark decided to turn it into a money making enterprise and pay himself an exorbitant salary.

      • WEAguy says:

        That 2018 article is laughable. I play there semi-regularly as a walk on player and don’t remember seeing more than 2 courts at a time being used for lessons/groups. Maybe this is different during weekday afternoon hours, but is it such a bad thing that there are programs for kids and adults alike? Is it such a shame that people can walk on – for free this year, mind you – to play on red clay courts? Previously, I had never done so in my life. I’d say these courts do plenty for the public, but to each their own.

        • Jim says:

          Why laughable? You admit to being a “semi-regular walk on player” which means you really don’t know what’s going on there except on a semi-regular walk-on sort of way. Look at the RCTA website. All it does is sell and promote a vast array of clinics and lessons and camps. They have up to a dozen “teaching pros” on staff.

          “Is it such a bad thing that there are programs for kids and adults alike?” That depends. Is the purpose of a public facility to generate half a million dollars annually for a private company that is neither accountable nor transparent? Should the Executive Director of that company be making more money than teachers, EMS workers, police and fire fighters by exploiting a public parks facility for a purpose contrary to the use contract with the Parks Dept.?

          “I say these courts do plenty for the public” – what on earth should they “do” other than be a facility for tennis players with park permits?

          Nothing I said should be construed to be against “walking on” to play on red clay courts. Just the opposite. That’s what their purpose is and that’s what should be the priority. Again look at the website and see the extent to which money making programs are the priority. That’s my problem with how they’re run. And by the way, there are dozens of people who have gone up to Mark over the years and expressed their frustration that courts are not available for walk on play because of all the programs. Mark’s response to every one of those people has been consistent: “If you don’t like the way I run things, don’t play here.”

      • hope says:

        Thank you for seeing this story for what it represents,
        unlike other commenters who instead opted to
        insult or make fun of me.
        Safe to say that if the tables were turned, those
        who play regularly at Riverside would be pretty bent out
        of shape. Yes, there’s nothing stopping me from playing
        at Riverside this week – except the need to take the subway or bus to get there. No thanks. There are
        courts within walking distance of my home and almost without fail I get to play at least 2 – 3 hours at a time, sometimes more if I’m up to it.
        So yeah, I’ll wait it out for a few extra days.

        • HopeLogic says:

          Yes, I’d be really bent out of shape that another set of courts did a great job in getting their act together to open and that I’d have to wait a whole 7 days to play, when I’ve already been waiting for nearly 4 months! Hope logic at its finest!

    6. Julien Jade says:

      It would be helpful to know who Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. McIntyre is — the person who seems to have frustrated a few Upper West Siders. That piece of info would help readers like me better understand the situation.

    7. lilian says:

      Wow so much unpleasantness. First of all the clay courts are open to everyone who wants to play so its not even a case of if we cant play they cant play. Its kind of like saying we are all so thirsty and that guy is handing out water but he shouldn’t be cause the other guys are not passing out water yet.
      Second the rcta does a great job raising private funds from members, of which i am one, so that netting, brushes etc can be paid for. Their lessons are also the most affordably priced in manhattan and i do believe they give away some free lessons to kids too. I think this lockdown has really brought out a lot of petty nastyness in people. Be happy we are getting to do some fun things again. And be proud that Manhattan even has outdoor red clay courts.

    8. Clyde H. says:

      I don’t get why some people think that opening some of the city’s tennis courts early is a bad thing. The Riverside clay courts aren’t the only ones to open early: the courts in Prospect Park, Crotona Park, Cunningham Park and Randall’s Island all opened LAST week. Those courts are all run by concessions while the Riverside clay courts are managed by a non-profit organization affiliated with the Riverside Park Conservancy.

      In either case these facilities don’t have to rely on assistance from the city and were, presumably, able to use their own manpower to get their courts ready for play. In addition, the courts at Riverbank State Park have been open for several weeks (full disclosure, I’ve been playing there!). The earlier the better, I say – why the hell would anyone complain?

      Also, it’s my understanding that all play on public courts will be free for the remainder of the 2020 season. Early court opening, free tennis, all good in my book!

    9. Julie says:

      Tennis was only phase 3 when phases were first announced. It was reconsidered and giving special prrmittance to restart statewide a few weeks ago. Not surprised the city is all over the place because it’s the city!

    10. Clyde H. says:

      After his vitriolic takedown of the RCTA as the absolute epitome of corruption and slagging off its executive director, Mark McIntyre, in his comment above, “Jim” seemed to be enjoying himself immensely on court 9 on those very same clay courts this morning. Seems to me what really matters, especially in this unsettling moment in which we find ourselves, is that we are able to get outside and play tennis at all.

    11. KK says:

      For all the negative naysayers out there: the community that tends to these courts have provided a safe environment for inner city kids during summer months. If you’re too poor to afford AC at home, when summer school is over, or when cinema tickets became too expensive, these courts provided a safe haven for adolescents. The people there are almost family.

      That being said, you also need to know NYC Parks Dept would gladly convert them to hard courts because red clay courts require lots of love, care and attention. At opening a few days ago, half of them remain unusable because the clay has not set and the lines have not been nailed down.

      I’m in complete agreement with McIntyre:: the staff has self policed themselves to ensure distancing and the players were wearing face masks in compliance when I was there on day 3.