Riverside Park - 96th St. Tennis Courts

96th Street & Riverside Drive
New York, NY

Submitted by: Nicole Levin

10 well-kept red clay tennis courts surrounded by wonderful gardens, located at the edge of the majestic Hudson River.

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Why It Works

The tennis courts give users more than just competition and exercise. The activity on the courts fosters relationships off the court by providing users with a common focus. Frequently held parties, picnics, concerts, and other events give both regular users and newcomers a chance to congregate and mingle.

The courts and gardens are maintained through a partnership between the The Riverside Clay Court Tennis Association, volunteers, and the NYC Department of Parks. The City contributes some supplies and one full-time Parks Department employee, and RCTA funds and membership efforts make up the difference. Each year, the RCTA raises tens of thousands of dollars for materials, equipment and hands-on staff.

What Makes Riverside Park - 96th St. Tennis Courts a Great Place?

It is accessible by car, foot, and bike, though you have to walk down grade to get there (so up grade to leave) as it is on the lowest level of the three major levels at Riverside Park.

The area is well maintained, safe, quiet and very private. There are well-maintained lawns and flowers, flowering trees, Japanese black pine, and the light reflecting off the river different times of day is jewel-like and spectacular. There is only one very small brick building, a similar-size storage space and two portable toilets (which some view as negatives).

People play tennis, enjoy the riverfront, watch the sun set in a setting that is very European, and makes you feel like you're not in NY.

The tennis crowd and related activity, maintained by members and contributors as well as special picnics, tournaments and events, creates a sense of community for those who frequent this part of the park, and allows them to embrace interacting with new users.

History & Background

In the 1980s, the tennis courts were in a state of disrepair. With the City threatening to pave them over, the neglected courts were saved through the efforts of the RCTA. A citizen's group founded the RCTA specifically to protect the 96th Street tennis courts, and after rescuing the courts from certain doom, they undertook regular repair and maintenance of the courts through volunteer efforts. In 1991, the RCTA raised funds from its membership to resurface all 10 courts with 20 tons of red clay. Over 200 members put in weeks of backbreaking labor in order to lay the foundations of the present facility.

The RCTA has also taken responsibility for improving the area surrounding the courts. RCTA gardeners have landscaped the grounds with stunning flower beds, bushes and trees. Thanks to the gardening committee the adjacent areas have become a popular destination for visitors to the Riverside Park waterfront.

Today the courts are recognized for their world-class quality and the RCTA is often cited as a model citizens group working with city government to preserve a cherished public asset.

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