Your Guide to the Best Free (Or Low Cost) Outdoor Tennis Courts in New York
By Duncan Ashley Lonsdale, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson - West Side Office
Today’s beginning of the US Open may signal the end of the “Grand Slam” season for professional tennis, but there are still a few more good months weather-wise for the rest of us to pick up a racquet on the many free (or close to free) outdoor courts in Manhattan and elsewhere in the city.
Brian Watkins Tennis Center
East River Park at Houston St. under the Williamsburg Bridge (walk east over FDR Drive)
# of Courts/surface: 12 Hard Courts
Contact: (212) 529-7185
Comments: Free with a permit from Paragon Sports (867 Broadway between 17th and 18th Sts; 800-961-3030, paragonsports.com Applications can also be found at nycgovparks.org; a seasonal permit is $100; a day pass $7. Tranquil setting adjacent to the East River.
Central Park Tennis Center
93rd St. near West Drive
# of Courts/surface: 4 (Hard) & 26 (Fast Dry)
Contact: 212-316-0800 centralparktenniscenter.com
Hours:Daily 6:30am–8pm; free with permit. Reservations suggested. Permits available at nycgovparks.org season permit (good through late November) $200; single-play permit $15.
Comments: Because these are the most well known and offer the most amenities (bathrooms, lockers, showers, a snack bar, and pro shop), they are also the most difficult to secure at peak times. Lessons Offered.
Fort Washington Park
Located by the Hudson River at 170th St.
# of Courts/surface: 10 Hard Courts
Contact: (212) 304-2322
Comments: These courts may be Manhattan’s best-kept secret until they aren’t. They are relatively difficult to access, even for those who live in the neighborhood. Perhaps the most efficient way to access these courts is along the west side path – by bike (about 20-25 minutes each way from the upper west side). It’s a beautiful setting under the GWB and near the beloved Little Red Lighthouse.
Frederick Johnson Playground
Located at 151st St., east of Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.
# of Courts/surface: 4 Hard Courts & 4 Rubberized Courts
Contact: (212) 234-9609
Hours:7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and until 8:30 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Comments: Affectionately known as “The Jungle” where Althea Gibson trained in her youth. Players must have either a permit or a single-play pass. “Easier to get court time here than many of the other outdoor courts in the city.” Lessons Offered.
Inwood Hill Park
Located at 207th St. and Seaman Ave.
# of Courts/surface: 9 Hard Courts
Contact: (212) 304-2381
Riverside Drive and W. 96th St. (West of the highway and adjacent to the river)
# of Courts/surface: 10 Clay Courts
Contact: (212) 978-0277 rcta.info
Hours:Daily 7am–8pm April to November. Free with permit.
Comments: Very popular! Be prepared to wait (as long as 2 hours on weekends), but beautiful setting along the river. Avoid the lines by playing on weekday afternoons. Lessons Offered.
Located at Randall’s Island Park
# of Courts/surface:: 20 Hard (Indoor) Courts
Contact: (212) 427-6150 www.sportimeny.com/Tennis
Comments: 5 indoor hard courts, 5 indoor/outdoor hard courts, and 10 indoor/outdoor clay courts. 10 of the 20 courts are available to permit holders during the outdoor permit season (May through the day before Columbus Day). Adult and junior instructional, competitive, and recreational tennis programs offered.
Washington Market Park
Greenwich St (between Chambers and Duane Sts)
# of Courts/surface: 1 Hard Court
Hours:Daily 7am–midnight; free with permit.
Comments: Regulars typically arrive around 6:30am to get a good spot. Getting a spot is dicey since there is only one court. This single lighted court is open year-round.
Hudson River Park
Located at the river, between Canal and West Houston Street
# of Courts/surface: 3 Hard Courts
Contact: (212) 627-2020, hudsonriverpark.org
Hours:6 a.m. to midnight
Comments: Free! No permit required.1 hour limit if others are waiting. Beautifully situated along the Hudson and lights for evening play.
119th St. Tennis Association
Location is mid-promenade level of Riverside Park (above the path that runs by the river).
# of Courts/surface: 10 Hard Courts
Hours:8:00 a.m. until sundown
Comments: Annual membership dues: $40 per year. NYC Parks and Recreation Tennis Permits are required from Saturday, April 5 through Sunday, November 23, 2014. See the NYC Parks and Recreation website for further information and to renew online. Permits are sold at the Arsenal at 61st Street and 5th Avenue: Adults $200, Seniors $20, Juniors $10; Single Play passes $15 per person.
William H. Seward Park
Located at Essex and Hester Sts. in the lower east side.
# of Courts/surface: 3 hard courts
Comments: Not much information about these courts on the internet. Perhaps a well-kept secret?
Octagon Park Tennis Courts
Located on Roosevelt Island. Located at north end of Main Street, Roosevelt Island.
# of Courts/surface: 6 Plexicushion courts
Contact: (212) 832-4563, rioc.com.
Hours:6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Comments: Prime-time hours are 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. weekdays and 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays. There are usually plenty of open courts on weekend afternoons. The rubberized surface plays fast, but the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation is studying how to slow things down. The middle courts offer the best lighting at night. Bring water, as there’s no water fountain. A Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation permit is needed to get onto the courts.
For additional tennis information in all five boroughs, visit the NYC Gov Parks Website.
To find a home with the fits all your niched demands and needs, contact Duncan today via email or his website.