June 13, 2016 / Brooklyn news / Sunset Park / Fitness / Meadows of Shame

Talkin’ smack: Sunset Park handball courts ‘unplayable,’ athletes say

Give ‘em a hand: Sunset Park handballers Raul Rangel, Brian Cha, and Raymond Hernandez want the courts at their neighborhood’s namesake park in tip-top shape.
Brooklyn Paper
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The ball’s in their court.

The city must fix Sunset Park’s dilapidated handball courts so the neighborhood can reclaim its title as a mecca for the beloved game, players say. Tournament organizers contend the green space’s two courts are “unplayable” because they are so worn out, a problem that spiked a once-thriving handball community there, one said.

“In the ’90s it was the place to be. We used to host tournaments there, but it’s died out in the last few years because of the conditions,” said Manson Berkowitz, who founded the East Coast Handball Organization and lives about six blocks from the park.

The walls are pockmarked from years of use, and the rocky playing surface sends balls bouncing in wonky, unpredictable directions, players said. The crummy state of things forces serious neighborhood players to trek two miles to J.J. Byrne Playground in Park Slope so they can play high-stakes games without a crummy court interfering, another player said.

“If they fixed them, I wouldn’t have to go to Fourth Street in Park Slope to play a [competitive-level] game,” Raymond Hernandez said. “I know for sure if these courts were fixed all those players would come here.”

Courts that hold regular tournaments tend to attract better players who themselves attract aspiring aces. The neighborhood economy would benefit from a destination court, according to one avid player who brought the issue up at a recent Community Board 7 meeting.

“When there’s a tournament held, people come from all boroughs and not just to play handball — they eat, they explore the neighborhood and learn about it. It’s a huge attraction and very good for the area,” said Brian Cha, who grew up in Los Angeles, found the game during his time at school here, and very earnestly said he plans to live in New York permanently for the handball alone. “I don’t know why you wouldn’t want that.”

The city has spent $8 million on improving amenities at the neighborhood’s namesake park since 2007, including building a lighted athletic field, new bathrooms, entrances, and a playground — but it has left the handball courts to deteriorate, according to Berkowitz, a 38-year Sunset Park resident.

Rebuilding a handball wall that size costs the department $100,000–$200,000, a parks spokeswoman said. The agency will repaint the courts “as soon as possible,” and will consider renovating in the future, she said.

Meantime, locals are left to dream of recapturing their handball home land.

“You see me now, you think I’m not dying to play handball right now? I’m dying to play,” Hernandez said, standing in Sunset Park’s courts. “It’s beautiful, it’s sunny, it’s summer — this is what I was waiting for, but I can’t, nobody’s here, and nobody’s gonna come.”

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

HONEY from Williamsburg says:
Maybe these fools need to learn how to play da game! They want a solid gold wall??? Forget it - you live in the city!! Stop bringing your damn suburban ideas! 'Ooooh, I'm so sad - my wall is not perfectly flat - somebody fix or I'm going to cry!!!!!'
June 13, 2016, 8:46 am
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
Hello Honey, John Wasserman here. What Brooklyn Paper forget to tell us the readers are that these kids are Olympic grade players. They could bring back the gold! Then fix the wall and make it solid gold with their metals. Pardon my interruption. John Wasserman
June 13, 2016, 1:41 pm
Manson Berkowitz from Sunset Park says:
fun and jokes aside, the article isnt jus about fixing a wall...the conditions of the ENTIRE handball court are in shambles. so much money was spent to beautify the park, minus that ONE area. u do not rebuild a house, and leave the old broken windows in place. it is sad to see a place that was once full of life, left to fall apart. the structure of the courts are vital to the look of the park, and the awareness of it needs to be brought to attention. the kids of the community should not have to travel to other sections of brooklyn just to play, when all tat needs to be done are the needed repairs.
June 14, 2016, 3:25 am
Penny from Park Slope says:
Okay Mason Berkowitz - so now they want a house with new windows to play their little game?!?! How much money do you think should be tossed at this? next they'll want free jerseys and sports drinks! After that, luxury balls - paid for by taxes! Why don't we just buy them first class plane tickets to fly to the handball location of their choice?!
June 14, 2016, 7:47 am
Wilbur from Kings says:
They can also just patch the wall themselves. Take some initiative.
June 14, 2016, 9:07 am
Patrick from Williamsburg says:
The dent adds an element of uncertainty, which is more fun.
June 14, 2016, 3:44 pm
luis from coney island says:
A lot of ignorant comments. Why wouldn't you want playable courts to keep people busy and away from trouble, not only that but also keep them healthy. All you yuppies who stare into your phones all day and drink your overpriced coffee need not to be in these comments. Find inspiration from athletes who thrive to play handball rather than sell drugs instead of blogging looking for opportunities to boast your ignorance.
June 14, 2016, 11:22 pm
Alex from Sunset Park says:
I've been to those courts to play handball and it is really bad there. Cracks on the floor and on the wall. The soccer field has lights but the handball courts don't? It's like insulting the sport that its not worth the time and investment. This country is heading into another great depression era so might as well fix the walls because handball walls were built because of the great depression. This sport is here to stay. It's not a popular sport but its the sport to always come back to. You must never have played professional players to think this sport is not worth thinking about. This sport is a much more beautiful sport than any other sport in my opinion. Most sports are team sports. Handball is both a team and you can play alone against a opponent. Its Raw and body movement is like martial arts. This sport should be taken seriously but because were not punching faces but instead a rubber blue blue it isn't taken seriously. Fix the wall please. For the kids who want to do something physical instead of being at home staring a blue light emitting screen that damages your health.
June 14, 2016, 11:49 pm
Alex from Sunset Park says:
This article needs photos to show how bad the handball walls are at sunset park. This one photo does not show how bad it is.
June 14, 2016, 11:51 pm
del-Valle Ortiz from Sunset Park says:
First of all, Handball is a sport that can inspire youth and connect generations without having to pay for huge equipment or registration fees. The NYC Parks Department has 2055 handball courts, when was the last time you heard of a shooting at the Handball courts? we don't ask kids to replace the nets/hoops at the basketball courts, or the floors at the skating/roller rinks so why would we ask them to fix the Handball walls.
June 15, 2016, 4:44 am
Melo from Sunset park says:
Watch out because deblasios real estate cronies may have their eyes on the handball courts. It's a shame. A little upkeep goes a long way
June 15, 2016, 5:09 am
RickyV from Former SunSet Park says:
The handball courts were a hot since the 70s. My sisters played there back then and I played there in the 80s. Miss that.
You don't need thousands of tax dollars to fix it. The community needs to come out and take care of their own!
June 15, 2016, 8:40 am
Joe from Bushwick says:
I agree with Melo from Sunset - tear it down and build luxury housing if it's in such bad shape!
June 16, 2016, 9:07 am

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