BED-STUY, BROOKLYN — A long-awaited upgrade to the Bed-Stuy tennis courts will be a game-changer for the growing number of neighbors who play there — literally, according to local coach Frances Ferdinand.
For years, cracks, sloping asphalt and a huge drain in the middle of the courts at Jackie Robinson Park have forced players to be hyper-aware when learning the game, said Ferdinand, who runs HQ Tennis.
“If you go for the ball the wrong way, you’ll twist your ankle,” Ferdinand told Patch. “There’s a slope, and this huge drain… We almost had a garden sticking out of the cracks.”
The dilapidated conditions have caused many of Ferdinand’s coaching friends to avoid using Jackie Robinson’s courts when teaching in the borough, she said.
But that could change when a $530,000 renovation project begins this summer.
The Department of Environmental Protection is set to resurface the courts as it improves storm drains that run under the park to prevent flooding, the department confirmed to Patch. The resurfacing will be the first restoration of the courts in decades, according to Ferdinand.
The resurfacing will ensure that stormwater that falls on the courts will be directed to a natural drainage area instead of sewers, preventing flooding by keeping 1.2 million gallons of stormwater out of the sewer system each year , a DEP spokesperson told Patch. It is one of 11,000 green infrastructure assets the ministry has put in place over the past few years.
For tennis players, the resurfacing will mean a smoother playing surface and, at Ferdinand’s special request, will change the courts from their washed-out green and red coloring to a vibrant purple and blue, making it easier to see the ball. .
“We don’t have many purple courts [in Brooklyn]”said the coach, who requested the color change. “It will be something new, something fun.”
The resurfacing also comes at a critical time for the neighborhood.
Ferdinand and others have spent years working to turn Jackie Robinson Park into a safe haven amid escalating gun violence in the surrounding blocks. More recently, neighbors have started fundraising to spruce up the block of Malcolm X Boulevard next to the park.
The park’s transformation last year included the addition of free tennis lessons led by Ferdinand, summer camps and coaching for local youth through the local nonprofit BRO Experience Foundation, which provides safe spaces and coaching for young men of color.
Ferdinand hopes the resurfacing of the yard is the start of more to come.
“The whole park itself needs to be renovated,” she said, noting cracks in the playground, warped basketball courts and other issues. “With all the people using the park, you’d think there would be a little more money invested.”
The Parks Department told Patch that there are currently no other projects on file for Jackie Robinson. Ferdinand, along with his neighbors, said they would continue to seek funding opportunities.
And while the new courts could bring players from outside Jackie Robinson, Ferdinand said she’s committed to making sure everyone in the park comes first.
“The hope is that the community that already uses it will be proud of the courts,” Ferdinand said. “We’re really invested in the neighborhood…and to see that everyone feels welcome.”