I am a founding member of the McCarren Tennis Association, a community group representing more than 500 tennis players in the North Brooklyn area. Our group recently secured the $60,000 grant that fully restored the McCarren Park tennis courts.
Playing a game of tennis on public courts in NYC is already a racket — it costs $7 per player per hour, or $100 for a seasonal permit valid for seven months.
Under the new city regulations, fees will more than double, to $15 per person per hour or $200 per seasonal permit. After these fee increases, the cost of playing tennis on a per-person basis will be 34 times higher than other sports played on hardtop, like basketball, roller hockey, and hardtop baseball or softball. It will be 17 times higher than turf sports, including football, ultimate Frisbee, lacrosse, baseball and softball.
Looked at another way, if two softball teams wishing to play had to pay the proposed tennis pricing of $15 per person per hour, a single three-hour game of softball would cost over $800! You don’t need an umpire to call these fees out.
Under the existing $7/$100 fee structure, Parks already collects at least $1.8 million per year from tennis players — enough to maintain the city’s 700 public courts in excellent condition and even earn Parks a profit. Yet Parks does not allocate $1 of tennis fees to the upkeep of our courts. Until we did it ourselves, Parks had not resurfaced the McCarren courts in more than 30 years.
While we (and many other community tennis groups) are happy to help Parks maintain our courts, to increase our already high fees while forcing us to maintain the courts ourselves is a double fault.
Finally, these fee increases do not serve the community. Come to our courts and you’ll see every ethnicity, gender, and age group that the city offers — but you won’t see any millionaires or country-club types. Tennis is an affordable game — all you need is a court, a $30 racket and a $2 can of balls. If Parks imposes this fee doubling, though, many lower-income residents simply will not be able to play tennis. Sure, they could switch to sports with lower fees, like softball, basketball or handball, but that raises a question: Why would Parks favor one popular sport over another?
Whatever the city’s answer, our point is this: Income level should not determine whether the next Arthur Ashe, Andre Agassi or Serena Williams takes up this great game.
Please help us fight this unfair increase by emailing Commissioner Adrian Benepe at http://bit.ly/bHc9GU.
Sean Hoess is a member of the McCarren Park Tennis Association.