A popular SoHo basketball court will be closed for years due to MTA construction, in a move that community members say deprives kids of precious open space.
A sign on the now-shuttered Grand Canal basketball court indicates it will be closed through the third quarter of 2026. But the MTA said in a statement Friday that the court will reopen by the end of 2024. The agency did not explain the discrepancy.
The court at Sixth Avenue and Canal Street sits on a wedge-shaped block by the Holland Tunnel. It is heavily used by students from three nearby high schools that lack their own basketball courts, according to Jeannine Kiely, chair of Community Board 2.
“They basically don't have enough space inside their buildings, and they really rely on these parks,” Kiely said.
The MTA said the closure is necessary for a $53.2 million substation infrastructure upgrade underneath the courts to support train communications for the Eighth Avenue line. In a video published by the agency, project chief executive officer Tommy Hoscheid said finding a suitable location for new infrastructure is “one of the biggest challenges we face.”
The agency has pledged to restore the court once the construction is completed.
“We know that construction can be disruptive so we're always careful to leave a work area better than when we started. When this substation is complete, this basketball court will be leveled, resurfaced and landscaped,” the MTA video said.
The city Parks Department said the renovated court will be a welcome addition. In the meantime, hoops-hungry ballers can go to nearby Vesuvio Playground.
“We understand the need for recreational access in this neighborhood and the good news is twofold — when the MTA’s project is done there will be a brand new court here and in the meantime, just four blocks away anyone wanting to shoot some hoops can do so at Vesuvio Playground,” said Parks Department spokesperson Crystal Howard in a statement.
Kiely pointed out there’s no way to have an actual basketball game at Vesuvio, which only has one hoop. Use of the court is already competitive.
“There is typically somebody … kicking a soccer ball against the wall, playing handball, playing tennis and guess what now – also playing pickleball,” Kiely said.
Prep work is scheduled to start in the next few weeks and the entire project is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2025, according to the MTA.
Kiely noted the immediate neighborhood has an open space ratio of about 3 square feet per person – far below the city’s goal of about 100 square feet of open space per person.
“The population of families with young children continues to rise in our district, increasing the overcrowding of our active play spaces,” Community Board 2 officials said in its 2020 statement of fiscal need. “In addition, several large-scale development projects and major rezoning proposals have been approved during the past few years, which will add to the pressure on our parks and the need for more open space, particularly those in which active recreation will be possible.”
Basketball courts for residents of lower Manhattan serve as de facto community centers and social hubs, said Herb Tam, who runs the Chinatown Basketball Club that has played at Grand Canal Court.
“The public spaces like parks and basketball courts are really key for people to stretch out, to gather, to socialize and meet other people,” Tam said. “I think losing that is like another kind of blow to the community.”