Ballooning city permit prices creating tennis cheats

What a racket: Tennis player Yvonne Smith is chomping at the bit to know why she had to pay $200 to use the city’s public tennis courts, while other people get away with sneaking onto the courts without paying anything at all.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

What a racket!

Tennis lovers upset over ballooning court permit costs are finding some salvation at Marine Park — they get to play for free on Fridays and Saturdays when city employees aren’t manning the gates.

Longtime players upset that public tennis court permits jumped from $100 to $200 last year know that the Parks Department employee that watches over Marine Park’s courts is off on those days — giving them the perfect opportunity to sneak in for a quick volley.

“Some people without permits will come because they know when she’s gone,” said Aristides Soler, who frequents the courts in Marine Park.

Even the Parks employee assigned to the courts admits that non-permited players take over when she’s not around.

“When I’m gone, they come right in,” said the woman, who wished not to be named.

A Parks Department spokesman said that the city posts attendants at most tennis courts checking to see if the players have seasonal permits, which end in November. Adults pay $200 for a permit while children and seniors pay just $20.

“We want to make every effort to make sure that people playing there have the right permits,” the spokesman said, adding that the increased permitting fees would go into the general fund and pay for a wide variety of city services. “All of the courts are supposed to have attendants.”

But if that’s the case, tennis lovers say city employees will be looking over empty nets: many claim the increased costs will drive players away from the game.

“We’re losing the spirit of tennis in many people,” said Soler.

Player Alex Kaminnik agreed.

“People are doing whatever they can to avoid paying the $200 and, in the end, I think the city ends up losing money,” said Kaminnik.

Many thought that the increased permit fees would be used to help repair and maintain the city’s courts, but so far no upgrades have been made at Marine Park, which many say are cracked, chipped, and lined with unraveling nets.

“They’re in terrible condition,” said Yvonne Smith, who begrudgingly bought a permit. “I figure when the permits were raised to $200, there would be a bonus. I’m still waiting on that bonus.”

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