The pickleball turf wars that have been afflicting the West Village played out in a community board meeting on Monday.
There was only one thing on the agenda for the Community Board Parks and Waterfront Committee meeting: a discussion of “recreation uses” – in this case, pickleball – at Corporal John A. Seravalli Playground. The increasingly popular paddle sport has taken the Manhattan community by storm, creating a battle for the city’s limited open asphalt space between players and parents. And while pickleballers have argued that the space should be shared by all, some parents said makeshift courts leave kids with no room to play.
Monday’s discussion came after the city unsuccessfully attempted an intervention on the acre stretch of open asphalt at Seravalli. There, the Parks Department created two designated courts, and erased makeshift ones etched in chalk, but the unofficial courts eventually returned, and the battle continued.
At the meeting, pickleball players emphasized the welcoming nature of the sport, which they said was accessible to a wide range of ages. Many said the adult pickle players could, and should, coexist peacefully with the children who use the space.
Pickleball player Robert Beckwith said creating strict rules and mandating their enforcement could do the trick.
“Ask the park police to come out and issue citations and fines to anyone breaking those rules,” Beckwith said. “I think what you're going to find is that the bad actors that come and set their courts up everywhere will disappear, and what you'll see are people like me and others happily playing pickleball on the court you've given us and kids playing everywhere else.”
But some West Village parents weren’t so sure and described aggressive stand-offs between themselves, their kids, and adult pickleball players. Others said the addition of an organized sport makes the entire park unsafe, with adults “trampling” over small children on bikes.
Mother of two Jennifer Gravel said her experiences calling Parks Enforcement Patrol have not been effective, sometimes leading to confrontations between her kids and the pickleballers playing on makeshift courts.
“This has been going on for months. We've been calling [Parks] and it's to no avail,” Gravel said. “I think that the two courts [are] an invitation for pickleball in the entire park and the challenge is, when those nets go up, they cut off the entire park. Our children go into the park, they feel unwelcome and they walk away.”
Anne Cynar said she agreed that the playground was no place for pickleball, and the courts should be pushed out altogether.
“When you have a child in the West Village, there's really very, very few – actually only one space – where you can take your children.” Cynar said. “I understand there are quite a few places to play pickleball within a mile radius of where we live … but there's only one space in the West Village that's been permitted and open for children to play, and that's Seravalli playground.”
While pickleball player Samir Lavingia said he agreed with many parent’s grievances that players shouldn’t take over the playground, he said the park is large enough to accommodate all uses. Beyond that, Lavingia suggested there’s enough asphalt surrounding it — in the form of streets — to go around.
“The magic of pickleball is it can be played anywhere, on any asphalt. So I'd encourage the Parks Department to also work with the [Transportation Department] to see if there are nearby roads that can be closed and turned into pickleball courts,” said Lavingia, who plays pickleball once a week. “I think that's a great opportunity to unlock that space, especially in a neighborhood where the vast majority of people do not have cars.”
That suggestion was one that board member Shirley Secunda shared an openness to getting behind as an alternative to the two existing courts, rather than in addition to them.
“I think that is something that needs to be factored in there, because then, there's special dedicated space just for pickleball that doesn't interfere with what goes on in Seravalli, which is from my point of view, and from what I've read last night, really needs to be dedicated to be a more free form for children's activities and their security,” Secunda said.
This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Samir Lavingia's name.