MANHATTAN — Upper East Siders want their park back.
Neighbors fed up with their local park being hogged by a private tennis club are holding a rally in the green space next month with live music, face painting and ice cream in hopes of drawing attention to their cause.
For roughly four decades, the city has allowed the Sutton East Tennis club to use the entirety of the Queensboro Oval — a 1-acre public park at East 59th Street under the Queensboro Bridge Park — for its tennis bubble, and residents say they've had enough.
"A lot of people don't realize it's a public park," said Jim Clynes, chairman of Community Board 8, which is hosting the event. "This will be a rally to rev up attention to the fact that the community wants the tennis oval to be returned to the community full time, year-round."
The city has given the club license to use the park for more than nine months out of the year for its tennis bubble, which provides court space to those who pay a hefty fee ranging from $80 to $225 per hour.
The club's concession license ends in August 2017, according to a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, and residents say now is the time to reopen discussion about making it available to the public full time.
Though it's not immediately clear what the length or terms of the license are, it is a multi-year one, according to CB members.
East Sutton Tennis began operating at the site in 1997 and last year, it paid the city more than $2.3 million in license fees.
"We’re in positive, forward-thinking discussions will Bill Castro, the Manhattan Borough Parks Commissioner, who said he's keeping an open mind," Clynes said. "Certainly there are other indoor facilities for tennis players on the Upper East Side. The uniqueness of this location calls for it to be turned back to the community."
Peggy Price, a co-chair of CB8's parks committee, said that the Upper East Side has the smallest amount of parkland in the city and hopes that the June 25 rally event will resurface conversation and raise a flag with public officials.
"We need this park back," Price said. "It is already is a park, so it's not a stretch. We're really seeking to get back what is billed on the park. We really don’t think public parks should be privatized."
In March, CB8 passed a resolution stating that it would like the park to be used as a multi-sports area with seating for relaxation and an ice skating rink in the winter, which could also bring in revenue for the Parks Department, Price said.
These ideas and more will be part of the rally, which will include speakers from the community members as well as some local elected officials.
The Parks Department will review plans for any potential Requests for Proposals with the community board and consider feedback, the spokeswoman said.
The rally will be held at the Queensboro Oval at York Avenue and 59th Street on Saturday, June 25, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information visit the event's Facebook page.