Friday, March 18, 2011

Massive Tennis Fee Increases Squeeze The Public

East New York tennis player John Tejada, 50, stands outside the courts in Linden Park and says the city shouldn't charge so much in a poor neighborhood like East New York.
East New York tennis player John Tejada, 50, stands outside the courts in Linden Park and says the city shouldn't charge so much in a poor neighborhood like East New York. (Photo: Jake Pearson/NY Daily News )

Parks As Cash Cows. For the second time since 2003, Mayor Bloomberg has doubled the cost for a seven-month tennis permit in city parks. Last month tennis fees were quietly raised to $200. In 2003 the price was $ 50. Such fee increases do not require the approval of the City Council. The City is claiming the recreational fee increases are designed "to help defray the costs for the Department to maintain fields, courts and recreation centers" even though the money goes to the city's general fund. The Mayor is also in the process of trying to raise the cost of tennis lessons at parks win some of the city's poorest neighborhoods. The City recently issued a Request For Bids (RFB) for tennis professionals. After it was issued they decided $ 48 per hour wasn't enough, on March 9 they increased the price to $ 55 an hour.

Half Hour

$28.00 $35.00

Full Hour

$48.00 $55.00

Group Lessons for Two

$28.00 $35.00 per person

Group Lessons for Three or More

$20.00 $27.00 per person

The City also suddenly removed crime plagued Crotona Park in the Bronx from the list.

The following location from the “PROJECT BACKGROUND” Section (see Section I of the RFP) under “BRONX LOCATIONS” is hereby REMOVED:

Permit No.:

Park and Location


Crotona Park, Croton Ave & E 173rd St.

The city estimates it will take in $142.9 from Parks revenue this year but the Mayor's proposed expense budget allocates just $ 222 million in city funds for the embattled agency. In FY 10 the DPR represented 91% of all concession revenue taken in from city agencies.

The Mayor's proposed $65.6 billion budget for the next fiscal year anticipates Parks Department spending dropping by $52 million, or 15 percent, to $290 million, resulting in massive service cuts and thousands of jobs being lost or reduced to seasonal only. The Bloomberg administration is also pushing massive recreation fee increases for Parks Department facilities for next year.

Seniors would see their recreation center membership fees increased by 150% - from $10 to $25. Adults have seen their fees increased by 100%, from $50 to $100 for centers without an indoor pool, and from $75 to $150 for centers having an indoor pool.

Clearly the city is using our parks as cash cows while not reinvesting the money back into park services or facilities.

- Geoffrey Croft

City -Wide

City officials doubled the price of tennis permits this season and jacked up the price for lessons on public courts - and tennis players say they're feeling squeezed, according to the New York Daily News.

For the second time since 2003 - when permits jumped from $50 to $100 - city officials doubled the cost for a seven-month permit, to $200, and raised the cost of lessons at parks in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

"I guess I'm going to be playing against the wall this year," said Sylvie Duclona, 32, a nurse, who recently bought a racket so she could play in Linden Park in East New York, Brooklyn, but won't pay the $200 permit fee, or as much as $55 for an hour lesson.

"The [city] keeps saying they want you to eat better, slim down, exercise more - but where's the encouragement?" Duclona said.

In February, the Parks Department asked private tennis pros to submit bids to teach lessons at 24 courts in all five boroughs, including parks in low-income neighborhoods like the East New York, the South Bronx, Washington Heights in upper Manhattan and Jamaica, Queens.

"You know, [Mayor] Bloomberg is a millionaire [and] he thinks all people that play tennis are rich, but that's not true," said Carlos Ballenilla, 54, as he practiced his serve at Fort Washington Park on W. 155th St. yesterday.

"That [the fee hike] will stop people from coming here," he added.

Last year, 15 tennis pros contracted with the city to give private lessons on public courts - and this year, another 14 courts may get pros.

Parks Department First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh said tennis pros often charge less than the maximum amount - and that despite the permit cost increase, playing on city courts is still a good deal.

"We believe that our tennis permits remain more cost-effective than other tennis options at private facilities," he said.

But that didn't satisfy Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose district abuts St. Mary's Park in Mott Haven, the Bronx.

"You're raising the fees and limiting access to the community," said Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem, Mott Haven), who criticized the department for "using our public spaces to generate money for the city's general fund."

"The people in my district can't afford that; it's not a good situation," she said.

Queens tennis buff Bobby Wood said the city should pay him to use the worn-down city courts in his Woodhaven neighborhood.

"They should give you a discount if you use Forest Park," he said. "Some of these courts are horrible."

Children 18 and younger will still only pay $10 for a season permit and seniors over 62 will pay $20.

Selling tennis permits will net the Parks Department about $1.6 million in revenue, which goes into the city's general fund, an agency spokesman said.

Geoffrey Croft, who heads the watchdog group NYC Park Advocates, called the price increases "insulting."

"I've never seen anything like it," said Croft. "It's insulting and it just seems the city is obsessed with trying to extract every penny from parkland."

Read More:

NYC tennis players raise racket over Parks Dept. hike in permit prices
New York Daily News - March 18, 2011 - By Daniel Beekman, Lisa L. Colangelo and Jake Pearson

A Walk In The Park - March 7, 2011

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