By Lisa Kava
Tennis players who enjoy playing in Riverside Park are in for a treat. An extensive renovation project was just completed last week on the 119th Street Courts. Players say the ten public hard courts look and feel brand new. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held on Monday, August 1, at 9 AM.
“The courts were terribly cracked, impeding play and beginning to present a hazard,” Mark McIntyre, director of the Riverside Tennis Association (RTA) told West Side Rag. RTA is a subsidiary of the Riverside Park Conservancy. “The work consisted of crack repair and fill followed by 3 to 4 applications of acrylic tennis court coating,” McIntyre said.
Riverside Park is home to two other public tennis facilities; the 96th Street Red Clay Courts, and the Fort Washington Park Tennis Courts. Neither facility has experienced the deterioration of the 119th Tennis Courts which are also known as the “Over the Track Courts.” This is because the courts are built on a platform over the Amtrak railroad tracks.
“The platform shakes when trains pass by underneath causing the courts to crack,” McIntyre explained. “Once cracks appear they worsen over the winter when the water that gets in them expands and contracts during the freeze/thaw cycle,” McIntyre explained. “Because of the Amtrak issue, those courts have about half the lifespan of an average asphalt tennis court.”
McIntyre initially approached New York State Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, a long-time supporter of the 119th Street Tennis Association, seven years ago to ask for funding to repair the courts. The Assembly Member responded right away, McIntyre said. “But the NY State and New York City approval process is very thorough and took quite a while to be finalized.”
Finally, earlier this summer with O’Donnell’s help, funding towards the renovation was approved and issued through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (the New York State body that processes this type of funding.) The Dormitory Authority will reimburse the Riverside Park Conservancy $125,000 for the project.
“I am very pleased to support the 119th Street Tennis Courts, a much loved and much used site that needed physical repairs,” Assembly Member O’Donnell told the Rag in an email. “I knew it was important to invest in the courts because they bring important intangible value to our neighborhood. The investment gives tennis aficionados a beautiful new setting to enjoy their sport.”
WSR asked why it took so many years for the funding to get approved. “The Dormitory Authority is not known for being expeditious,” O’Donnell answered. “Even by that standard though, I had to fight for this funding every step of the process. Working closely with my great partners at Riverside Park and the Riverside Tennis Association, I had to continually make sure that the grant was moving through the hurdles and getting closer to being delivered to our community. I am very glad that day has come.”
The repairs, which were performed by a company in Brewster, New York, Sport Tech Acrylics, began in late June and were completed on July 26th. Five courts were repaired at a time so that play could continue on the other five during the project.
Membership in the 119th Tennis Association is not required to play on the courts. Players need either a seasonal tennis permit, or single-play passes, and courts can be reserved online or in person. To find out more about how to play at the 119th Street Courts, click here. For information about how to obtain tennis permits and single play passes, click here
So far, players have been delighted at the outcome. “119th Street is my favorite place to play tennis in Manhattan. It has been dispiriting to see the courts deteriorate over the years, but now it’s like playing on brand new courts,” Barbara Eisberg said.
“I have been playing on the 119th Street Courts in Riverside Park for decades,” Joanie Schroeder, President of the 119th Street Tennis Association told WSR. “I played on the newly resurfaced courts twice this week and it was such a pleasure. I am so pleased that we can finally say, mission accomplished. “
Members of the 119th Tennis Association will celebrate at the ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday morning. Among those attending will be McIntyre, Schroeder, Assembly Member O’Donnell, along with NY Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue, and Riverside Park Conservancy Interim President, John Herrold. The ceremony is open to all who would like to attend.
“We are thrilled to have brand new courts. It feels worth the wait.” McIntyre said.
Update: Due to “gloomy weather,” the ribbon-cutting ceremony has been postponed to a later date to be determined.