East Side residents are accusing the city of trading a precious bit of green space for a little bit cash. The Parks Department is considering allowing a winter-time tennis bubble to operate year-round in the tiny Queensboro Oval at the corner of 59th Street and York Avenue—meaning neighbors wouldn't be able to access the park tucked beneath the Queensboro Bridge unless they paid a fee.
The Sutton East Tennis Club already has a concession contract to operate a bubble atop a baseball diamond in the park for eight months every year. Opponents are protesting to protect their access to the green space during the other four months. "Countless people use the space and want to continue to do so," they wrote in a press release. "They are being denied this community privilege because a greedy sole proprietor has offered the city money for the space and OUR CITY has agreed to sell our public outdoor space!" Opponents say they will speak out against the plan to extend the concession contract at a Community Board 8 meeting tomorrow night—potentially while dressed like baseball players.
According to Tony Scolnick, director of tennis operations for the Sutton East Tennis Club, a year-round tennis facility would be a win for athletes in the neighborhood. "It's a very busy facility, being that there is really no other place to play on the East Side. It's a great opportunity for people to be able to play year-round tennis." The tennis club's website claims it is "now open year round" and Scolnick told Gothamist a contract for year-round operations has already been signed.
But a Parks Department spokeswoman insists that no contract has been signed, and that the plan is still tentative. "As far as we're concerned, there is no extension as of yet," said press officer Cristina DeLuca. "The community board meeting is tomorrow, and we were trying to get a little more input and then make a decision."
Though Scolnick declined to say how much his business will pay the city to operate in the park, Parks officials told Gothamist the proposed contract would give the city 35 percent of the tennis club's gross earnings annually between September and April, and 25 percent of gross earnings between May and August. Minimum fees paid to the city would start at $1.9 million this year, before increasing to $2.2 million the following year, and eventually rising to $3.1 million by the time the contract expires in 2017.
The Community Board 8 Parks Committee meeting is scheduled for 6 pm on Thursday at the Hunter School of Social Work in the Hexter Lounge at 129 E. 79th Street.