By Lisa Kava
Tennis players who like to play at Riverside Park will be delighted. A major 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 take place on Monday, August 1 at 9 a.m.
“The courts were terribly cracked, impeding play and starting to present a hazard,” Mark McIntyre, director of the Riverside Tennis Association (RTA), told West Side Rag. RTA is a subsidiary of Riverside Park Conservancy. “The job consisted of repairing and filling the cracks followed by 3-4 applications of acrylic tennis court surfacing,” McIntyre said.
Riverside Park is home to two other public tennis facilities; the red clay courts at 96th Street and the tennis courts at Fort Washington Park. Neither facility experienced the deterioration of the 119th Tennis Courts, also known as “Over the Track Courts”. This is because the courts are built on a platform above the Amtrak tracks.
“The platform shakes as trains pass underneath, causing the courts to creak,” McIntyre explained. “Once the cracks appear, they get worse over the winter as water entering them expands and contracts during the freeze/thaw cycle,” McIntyre explained. “Because of the Amtrak issue, these courts have about half the life of an average asphalt tennis court.”
McIntyre originally approached New York State Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, a longtime supporter of the 119th Street Tennis Association, seven years ago to request funding to repair the courts. The Assemblyman responded immediately, McIntyre said. “But the New York State and New York City approval process is very thorough and has taken a while to finalize.”
Finally, earlier this summer, with the help of O’Donnell, funding for the renovation was approved and issued by the New York State Dormitory Authority (the New State agency York which handles 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 heavily used site that needed physical repairs,” Assemblyman O’Donnell told the Rag in an email. “I knew it was important to invest in the courts, as they bring significant intangible value to our neighborhood. This investment offers tennis enthusiasts a magnificent new setting to practice their sport.
WSR asked why it took so many years for funding to be approved. “The Dormitory Authority is not known for being expeditious,” O’Donnell replied. “Even by that standard, I had to fight for this funding every step of the way. Working closely with my great partners at Riverside Park and the Riverside Tennis Association, I had to continually make sure the grant cleared the hurdles and moved closer to being handed over to our community. I am very happy that this day has arrived.
The repairs, which were carried out by a Brewster, New York company, Sport Tech Acrylics, began in late June and were completed on July 26. Five courts were repaired at a time so that play could continue on the other five during the project.
You do not need to be a member of the 119th Tennis Association to play on the courts. Players need seasonal tennis permits or single-game passes, and courts can be reserved online or in person. To learn more about how to play at 119th Street Courts, click here. For more information on how to obtain tennis licenses and single game passes, click here
So far, players have been delighted with the result. “119th Street is my favorite place to play tennis in Manhattan. It’s been disheartening to see the courts deteriorate over the years, but now it’s like playing on brand new courts,” said Barbara Eisberg.
“I’ve been playing the 119th Street Courts at Riverside Park for decades,” Joanie Schroeder, president of the 119th Street Tennis Association told WSR. “I played twice this week on the newly refurbished courts and it was such a pleasure. I’m so happy that we can finally say, mission accomplished.”
Members of the 119th Tennis Association will celebrate at the inauguration ceremony on Monday morning. Attendees will include McIntyre, Schroeder, Assemblyman O’Donnell, as well as New York City Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue and Riverside Park Conservancy Acting President John Herrold. The ceremony is open to anyone who wishes to attend.
“We are delighted to have new courts. It’s worth the wait. McIntyre said.