To the editor:
I write this letter to try and raise a groundswell of support to rescind a parks department policy that is unfair.
At the Seton Park public tennis courts on Thursday, Oct. 21 — just before 4 p.m. — the coach of the Fieldston School’s women’s tennis team, along with eight women players, entered the court area. He explained that he had a permit and the right to take over four of the six public courts at Seton Park.
Anyone who uses Seton Park knows that these tennis courts are in high demand and constantly full. In recent weeks, I have had to wait an hour to get a court.
The city’s website says that “your permit application will be denied (if) a location that NYC Parks determines would prevent members of the public from the reasonable simultaneous use of all or part of the park for recreational purposes.” Fieldston’s use of four out of six tennis courts certainly prevents the public from reasonable use. I do not believe the parks department should give permits for daily use of these courts in the fall and spring season to private schools.
Although he was polite, the Fieldston coach both kicked people off courts on which they were playing, and cut in front of others who were waiting at the gate. This left essentially one court for all waiting players, and given the waning daylight in October, stopped people from playing at all that day.
Although this may be the parks department’s current policy, I contest it because it privileges the wealthy and deprives taxpayers from using a public amenity they pay for, and is therefore — in principle — unjust and wrong.
It is objectionable that the parks department gives preferential treatment to a private school, which has the money to rent private indoor space for their team. In fact, Fieldston School had tennis courts on its property, but decided to eliminate them to build a huge gymnasium.
We taxpayers, who can only afford to play tennis on public courts, should not have to suffer the consequences of that decision. If schools must be given preferential access to the courts, they should wait like the rest of us for available courts, or use them in the early morning before school, or in the middle of the day when the courts are not so crowded or in demand as between 3 and 6 p.m.
I have seen other tennis players at the courts who were terribly frustrated by this, and I believe that if this is publicized, there will be a groundswell of support to change this policy.
I hope to get the parks department and private schools to review and change this policy before the next tennis season.
But I for one will purchase a tennis permit as I have in the past, and feel that I will have the right to challenge this unjust policy and anyone who asks me to leave a court or who attempts to get in front of me.
I will, of course, use completely nonviolent methods like sit-ins and marching, but I will not leave. I will encourage others to do this as well.
I hope the Fieldston administration and students who have privilege of their parents paying $55,000 tuition each year will see that receiving this benefit on the back of the public is unfair and unjust, and that the school should use that tuition to pay for private court time elsewhere. I have written to, and sincerely hope that, Fieldston School will reflect on their role and responsibility in the community, and cease applying for public tennis court permits.
I have also strongly urged the parks department to stop allowing this practice as well.
This may seem like a small issue in the scope of the world’s problems, but when issues of equity and fairness — and examples of rich and powerful actors pushing around the little guy are so present in our society — I think this is a good local issue on which to seek justice.
I invite other tennis players and park users to join me.