A populist victory for urban tennis players has been won. The Queensboro Oval tennis bubble, currently operated by the private Sutton East Tennis club, will soon be open to city permit holders, following a grassroots movement in the community, DNAInfo reports.
The one-acre park, nestled under the Queensboro Bridge on the Manhattan side, is owned by the city, but in recent years, has been operated by Sutton East through a license agreement—much to the chagrin of Upper East Siders, who’ve been rallying to return the park to its original function.
That hasn’t quite happened yet: In February, the Parks Department agreed to extend its lease with Sutton East for another year while they figure out alternate designs for the space, but change is afoot. As a first step, the city is keeping the tennis courts open for the summer, rather than taking down the bubble to open up the space for summer softball players, as in previous years. (The softball players will be relocated elsewhere.) And they’re making those open courts much, much more accessible. Or at least, most of them.
Starting on June 16th, six of the club’s eight courts will be open for the season to players with city tennis permits at no extra cost. In practical terms, that’s a pretty significant change. Normally, the club—which, to be fair, doesn’t require membership—charges $225 per court per hour during peak times, while off-peak prices hover around $13 per person for an hour of doubles, or $510 per person for 10 hours, members told DNAInfo. City permits, meanwhile, cost a fraction of that: annual adult tennis permits cost $100, senior permits are $20, permits for players under 18 go for $10, and single-play permits are $15.
Tony Scolnick, the owner of the club, told DNAInfo he’s “tickled pink” about keeping the courts open for the summer, and making them accessible to city permit-holders. "I think its going to be great because there are no public courts on the East Side," he told DNAInfo. "The program the commissioner is trying out is going to be very successful. People will be thrilled because when it rains in the summer they can't play outdoors. We believe thousands of people who play at our facility, if they don't have a permit, will go and get one. We are very happy to maintain the courts."