Volume 16 • Issue 33 | January 16 - 22, 2004

Trust serving up tennis courts near Spring St.

By Albert Amateau

Three permanent tennis courts will be built in Hudson River Park just south of Pier 40, if all goes according to a Hudson River Park Trust proposal that won the approval on Jan. 5 of the Community Board 2 Waterfront Committee.

The committee voted to approve one of two alternatives proposed by the Trust that would allow the construction of two doubles and one singles court in the park south of the southern edge of Pier 40.

The other alternative called for a location about 100 feet farther south toward Spring St., but because the park is narrower there, two of the courts would have been for singles and one for doubles.

The committee, headed by Don MacPherson, voted unanimously for the northern location. The full Community Board 2 will consider the tennis court locations at its Thurs. Jan. 22 meeting.

“Of course, everyone chose the option to have two doubles and one singles,” said Albert K. Butzel, president of the Friends of Hudson River Park who attended the meeting as a non-voting observer. “I think it’s a good place for them,” Butzel added. Both alternative sites are located in the C.B. 2 district.

A plan by H.R.P.T. to construct an ice-skating rink in the same location ran afoul of community public opinion and is currently not active. “This is different from the ice rink,” said Butzel. “These would be free.”

Chris Martin, H.R.P.T. spokesperson, who presented the alternatives to the Waterfront Committee, indicated that the courts’ construction cost would be born by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the state agency in charge of rebuilding Downtown in the wake of the Sept. 11 attack. In April, Gov. George Pataki, who founded the agency, set a goal of building Hudson River Park tennis courts by this summer as one of his short-term improvements for Lower Manhattan.

Martin was unable to say how much the project would cost last week. He also said the Trust would not initiate the formal hearing process requiring 60-day notice for significant changes in park plans. Martin said tennis courts have been part of the Segment 3 plans for the park along the Village waterfront.

The Trust intends to call for bidders to install a Har-Tru surface for the courts, Martin said. Har-Tru is a pioneer in tennis court construction with a surface that resembles the traditional clay tennis court.

Downtown residents have long been calling for tennis courts to replace the ones that were located in part of the Battery Park City ball fields between Murray and Warren Sts. Those courts were removed when the area was used for vehicles involved in the recovery after the World Trade Center attack.

But Tom Goodkind, a Community Board 1 member who attended the C.B. 2 meeting on Jan. 5 with his seven-year-old daughter, an avid tennis player, was disappointed that the proposed courts are so far from the original site.

“It’s great that the Village has tennis courts, but H.R.P.T. shouldn’t call them a replacement for the ones we lost,” said Goodkind, a Battery Park City resident. “H.R.P.T. has told us that there is no space for tennis courts in Battery Park City, but there’s lots of space – like the area south of the tire-swing park reserved for Battery Park City Authority parking.” Goodkind also questioned the propriety of using L.M.D.C. funds for projects not directly connected to the neighborhood directly affected by the W.T.C. attack.

Judy Duffy, assistant district manager of C. B. 1, said that tennis courts were part of the park’s Segment 3 plans. “The only thing that’s changed is the funding and the time line,” she said. “I don’t think the location at the south end of Pier 40 is a problem,” Duffy said.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick, whose district includes Tribeca and the Village, said that although tennis courts would please more people and have more use than the ice rink, the courts raise serious questions about the balance between active and passive recreation.

“That part of the park was intended for undulating green lawns in the park master plan,” said Glick. “If they keep putting in active recreation there will be no green left between Pier 25 [near N. Moore St.] and Christopher St.,” she continued. She suggested that a legal public review of the tennis court proposal, with 60-day notice according to law, was necessary. “We could have been in that public review already if they had presented this plan months ago instead of wasting time with the ice rink,” Glick said.

The issue of view corridors to the river is another consideration for Glick. “Tennis courts will have to have a fence,” she said. “It might be better to put the courts in front of Pier 40 where there is no view of the river,” she suggested.

Glick was also skeptical about the plan to use only a sign-up sheet for court use and no attendant. “We’ll see how long that lasts,” she said.



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