City Turns Free Upper East Side Baseball Fields into Year-Round Paid Tennis Courts

By Nicole Bode on January 8, 2010 9:01am | Updated on January 8, 2010 11:53am

By Nicole Bode

DNAinfo Associate Editor

UPPER EAST SIDE – An enclosed tennis court beneath the Queensboro Bridge that formerly made way each spring and summer for public baseball fields has been approved by the city to stay in place all year round.

The Sutton East Tennis club will have permanent residence atop the Queensboro Oval park space on York Ave. between 59th and 60th Streets starting immediately, according to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

"Parks received authorization from the (Franchise Concession Review Committee) to amend York Avenue Tennis’s license from 8 months to 12 months," Parks & Recreation spokeswoman Cristina DeLuca said Thursday.

The club’s inflatable, heated bubble with eight clay courts used to be removed between May and the end of August to make room for little leagues and adult baseball and softball teams with Parks Department permits, the parks department website says.

But that all changed November 10th, when the city’s Franchise Concession Review Committee, a multiagency panel that oversees private companies that contract to use city-owned land, voted to keep the tennis courts intact year-round.

In exchange, Sutton’s license holder York Tennis LLC agreed to pay an estimated 10-year, $2.6 million profit sharing plan, as well as make at least $160,000 in renovations to the property, according to the meeting minutes.

The club charges between $110 and $180 for an hour of court time.

Calls to Sutton East Tennis were not returned.

Under the terms of the new lease, the tennis club also agreed to set aside free courts and free playing time for the Parks Department and a local athletic association that used to use the baseball fields.

The Yorkville Youth Athletic Association, which has approximately 1,400 baseball players between the ages of 5 and 12 years old, will get four free hours a week on the courts, the amendment says.

“It really makes more sense for it to be a tennis facility,” said Arlene Virga, executive director of the Yorkville Youth Athletic Association. “When it rains, it is extremely slippery so it is not a good place to play (baseball).”

The Sutton East Tennis Club's bubble under the Queensboro Bridge. Softball players were granted permits to play at the Oval for the summer, overturning an agreement to operate the bubble year-round.
The Sutton East Tennis Club's bubble under the Queensboro Bridge. Softball players were granted permits to play at the Oval for the summer, overturning an agreement to operate the bubble year-round.
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Jennifer Glickel / DNAinfo

But not everyone is so excited about the Parks Department’s new plan – including some of those expected to turn out at a Community Board 8 public hearing Thursday night.

Critics say the Parks Department did little to alert the public about the plan before taking a vote.

“I received a call from the NYC Parks Department yesterday saying that the tennis bubble company (Sutton East) is going to take our field (Queensboro Oval at 59th & Sutton Place) for the entire spring, summer and autumn,” read an irate email circulated by a softball league permit holder.

“Although it may already be a 'done deal' (from behind closed doors), the Parks and Recreation Committee of the Community Board (Manhattan CB#8) is having a meeting on the matter,” the email continued. "A strong show of support and protest of this move is mandatory in order for NYC Parks to re-think this decision."

The Sutton East Tennis Club's bubble under the Queensboro Bridge.
The Sutton East Tennis Club's bubble under the Queensboro Bridge.
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Jennifer Glickel / DNAinfo

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