Friday, December 9, 2011

Sportime's Randall's Island Tennis Expansion Opposition Heat Up

Public Parks Are Not For Private Clubs. Environmental justice activists and residents of East Harlem and the South Bronx were out in force on Monday night protesting SPORTIME's proposed private tennis club expansion on Randall's Island. Former tennis star McEnroe was being honored by The Nation magazine at a gala event held at the Metropolitan Pavilion hosted by Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand and many notable progressives. (Photo:Indymedia)

Approximately 30 opponents wore tennis gear and carried banners and signs and handed out flyers to guests. The $19 million, 160,000 square feet, 20 court SPORTIME Randall's Island facility built last year avoided going through ULURP whereby bypassing community planning and consoltation.

John McEnroe teamed up with Claude Okin, the managing partner of Sportive New York to create the John McEnroe tennis academy on Randall's Island. The academy prices range from $3,600 to $4,800 for 34 weeks of two-hour lessons. McEnroe's brother Mark is the general manager of the $ 19 million dollar facility.

Sportime Randall's Island charges between $72 to $105 per hour for indoor courts, on top of fees of $500-750 to join, in addition to monthly dues as high as $ 286 for a family. (They have more than 2,000 members) Tennis lessons run as high as $ 5,950 for one hour lessons for 34 weeks. One camp charges $ 500 a day for non-members (transportation and food is extra).
Ten courts are available for NYC Park Department tennis permit holders during the non-Winter months.

The tennis center generated $ 9 million dollars in revenue last year alone according to Sportime's Ben Schlansky.

Critics charge that not only was the public not consulted with in the building of the original facility but since then residents from East Harlem and South Bronx have not benefited enough from the massive commercial facility built on public parkland.

At a lively Community Board 11 Parks and Recreation Committee meeting last night on the proposed tennis center expansion, a Sportime NY spokesperson revealed that only 370 hours of free instructional time were given to kids in 2010 and 650 hours in 2011. (The facility is open 365 day a year, 16 hours a day) They could not break down how many of those hours were associated with Randall's Sport Foundation related programs. They also did not provide a breakdown of what neighborhoods those kids live.

The Sportime NY representative also said that just 20 scholarships were given out in 2010 and 30 in 2011. He did not provide any information on what communities those that recieved them lived. Another point of contention was that the scholarships were soley merit based - on already existing skill - instead of exposing youth to the game.

The $ 6 - 7 million, 75,000 Sq. Ft. proposed expansion includes the building of 9 new courts, three bubbles aprox. 45 - 52 feet high, in a parking lot across the street from the existing facility. Unlike the original $ 19 million project this would go through ULURP.

The project's architect Ricardo Zurita, presented along with Aimee Boden, Park Administrator and Randall's Island Sports Foundation Executive Director, and Ben Schlansky, of Sportstime NY.

The applicants hope to certify the project with City Planning and begin ULURP in spring - 2013.

The general consensus from the public at the meeting was that the proposed expansion project should be withdrawn and the existing issues regarding the built facility be resolved.

Community Board 11's City Properties & Land Use Committee will hear the proposal on Monday, December 12th.
7:00pm - 8:00pm
at the Bonifacio Senior Center, 7 East 116th Street


CB 11 Full Board Monthly Meeting
December 20th- 6:30pm at the Museum of the City of New York, 1220 5th Ave (103rd St.)

- Geoffrey Croft

Prices for the John McEnroe tennis academy on Randall's Island range from $3,600 to $4,800 for 34 weeks of two-hour lessons. The famed tennis player (above) with a student, teamed with up Claude Okin, the managing partner of Sportime New York to create the tennis academy. (Photo: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)


Environmental activists from East Harlem, the Bronx and other parts of the city took to the streets to raise awareness about ongoing attempted land grabs and alienation of public parkland on Randall’s Island, according to Indymedia.

The Nation Magazine's favorite tennis champ, John McEnroe, has lent his name to Sportime Corporation, which in 2010 illegally (without land use review) acquired a large portion of public park land that had been used by East Harlem and South Bronx residents for over 50 years. McEnroe's Sportime Tennis Center now charges thousands of dollars to be a member of the private tennis club.

The Nation writer Eric Alterman with supporters

The Nation writer Eric Alterman speaks with Randall's Island Sports Foundation head Aimee Boden. (Photo:Indymedia)

McEnroe was honored by The Nation Magazine on Monday December 5th 2011 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan. Approximately 30 opponents of the land grab wore tennis gear and carried banners and signs in front of the gala affair, which was hosted by Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand and many notable progressives. They resisted efforts by off duty police officer security to remove them from the front of the gala affair, with tickets at a minimum of $500 per seat. Later, when the NY Police were called, they asked if those peacefully assembled had a “permit” and sought to shunt them away from the star studded guests arrival. Knowing their 1st Amendment rights, advocates maintained their position with loud chants. No one from The Nation came out to support their right to assemble or seek to reign in the security seeking to intimidate everyone out front.

Activists handed out flyers and engaged arriving guests such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, NYC Comptroller John Liu, NYC Public Advocate Bill deBlasio, State Senator Liz Krueger, former NYC Public Advocate Mark Green, and Nation writers Eric Alterman and Jeremy Scahill to inform them how John McEnroe steals park land from Bronx and East Harlem youth! They know now and we can monitor their position on the issue. Aimee Boide, Executive Director of Randall’s Island Sports Foundation, in addition to her six figure salary public position with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, was in attendance and well aware of the controversy and opposition to the project. Her attempts to stifle the advocates clear and coherent explanation of the issue to hundreds of attendees were met with laughter. When asked why they were honoring such a controversial figure, The Nation publisher emeritus Victor Navasky stated that he was unaware of this McEnroe scheme, which could be headed for Court. Will he assign a follow-up article by The Nation sportswriter Dave Zirin?

Sportime corporation served a $19 million PRIVATE sport's facility on Randall's Island. The local community, from South Bronx and East Harlem especially, got aced. The expansion proposal would seek to alienate more parkland with 9 tennis courts added to the 20 they already rent out and profit from. John McEnroe franchises his name to this unethical land grab and our progressive friends at The Nation invited him as an honored guest.

This alienation skipped any public process. McEnroe’s brother, Patrick, is a head of Sportime Corp. John sold his name on the 160,000 sq. ft., $19 million private tennis Club on Randall’s Island. It never went though the Alienation of Parkland legislative process, let alone the less onerous Uniform Land Use Review Procedure
(ULURP) required for local development. No one asked the community for ideas on how to use our land. Randall’s Island Sports Foundation (RISF) supported it and could get over $1 million a year or so to allow more. They keep changing plans every month depending on where they think they can make more money, rather than include the local stakeholders in a sincere and meaningful decision making process.

Bill de Blasio, ask hiom about park privatization when you see him on the trail
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is handed a flyer as he enters the event on Monday night. Rev. Jesse Jackson, NYC Comptroller John Liu, State Senator Liz Krueger, former NYC Public Advocate Mark Green were also in attedence.

Neighborhood advocates highlighted the exorbitant costs to use the private facilities. $72 to $105 per hour for courts, on top of fees of $500-750 to join, in addition to monthly dues as high as $ 286 for a family. Tennis lessons run as high as $ 5,950 for one hour for 34 weeks. There are even "members only" locker rooms with steam baths & massage therapy. Nice perks, but is this a public park people pondered?

Read More:

Indymedia - December 7, 2011 - By Jen Rivera

A Walk In The Park - November 9, 2011 - By Geoffrey Croft

No comments:

Post a Comment