The scorecard reads: picklers: 1, other residents: 0.
The pickleball community at Carl Schurz Park, led by an enigmatic figure popular with local fans called “Albert the Pickleball Doctor,” has won a serious victory with the city’s Parks Department--which has slapped a coat of paint to mark three new pickleball courts in what was once the park’s open recreation space.
While patrons of the fast growing support are giddy, other neighborhood residents are angry over the pickleball land grab.
In the parlance of the sport, they feel they have been “pickled” or shut out.
The paint job that was completed over the past week formalizes the informal group of Upper East Side residents and stands as a victory for the fast growing sport, whose followers are called “picklers.”
However, some outsiders are unhappy about the successfully arrogated pickleball space. As one local resident put it in a text: “So a bunch of rich adults got to glom into one of the open play areas for kids. They don’t vote, so who cares, right?”
Yet even some dedicated pickleball players worry about the new formalized courts. Phillis Wallach, a Carl Schurz Park pickleball player, voiced some of the nascent fears of her constituency at a virtual May 11th Parks and Waterfront Committee meeting. Asking for a resolution banning regular granting of permits in the pickleball court area, Wallach said: “My concern is that people are gonna get permits all the time, and then play pickleball on our pickleball courts.”
In other words, some of the pickleball players are worried that their insular community will be punctured by novices–or worse, non-pickleballing kids–attempting to reserve the court area for themselves. Steve Simon, the Chief of Staff for the Manhattan Borough Parks Commissioner, was skeptical; he responded that “I think that’s a rare concern. I don’t think you need to worry about it.”
A visit to the park itself made apparent similar worries from other players. An original member of the park’s pickleball squad and confidante of the Pickleball Doc, who gave only her initials as SH, was largely enthusiastic about the new courts. She nonetheless had two complaints, one being that kids were already playing catch on the courts instead of in the non-pickleball section of the recreational area.
She also had some sharp words about the layout and quantity of the courts (only three instead of four), bluntly stating that it was “a dumb move by the Parks Department. There should have been four courts close together, so the crowds don’t descend.”
Local politicians have been monitoring these recent developments, of course. District 5 Councilmember Julie Menin told Our Town that since she’s a councilmember “representing one of the densest districts in the entire city, I understand how critical it is to maximize usage of the limited open space we have.” She further clarified that the new courts are “an initial compromise meant to satiate the growing demand of pickleball, as well as still providing open space for kids to run around.”
This indicates that a balanced space will be key to preserving a cold peace between picklers and other park residents. As it stands, the courts were officially open for play as of Saturday, May 13th.