Washington Market Park tennis court sign-up may go online

The court at Washington Market Park  has had a contentious history with its sign-up process, and as a result, the Parks Department is considering putting the reservation system online starting next spring. As it is now, players line up at the park house when the park opens and a staff person brings out the paper list attached to a clipboard. Players then sign up for a time slot using their name and their tennis permit number. (More on tennis permits below, if you’re interested.)

The court is used and loved by local players, some of whom are real regulars, playing almost every day. Many of those players are now saying now that the online system — in place in other NYC parks where there are multiple courts, like Central Park — will allow people outside the neighborhood to get times more easily, and therefore crowd out the locals. They also say that outsiders leave garbage strewn about and vandalize the court. They are poised to send a letter to the commissioner asking him to reverse the decision.

But over the years many many players have complained to the Friends of Washington Market Park that the system is flawed (I know this because I have been on the park board since 2005). Some say when they arrive at 7a to sign up, many spots are already mysteriously filled. There are complaints that some players give lessons on the court and sign up for other people, both of which are not permitted and have the effect of monopolizing the court. And the park staff has complained of being harrassed by players who get angry when they can’t sign up for their time. This is the direct line from the Parks press office: “After hearing complaints about people monopolizing court use at Washington Market Park, we are considering utilizing the online tennis court reservation system for the 2020 season. We will be in conversation with the community as we explore this option.”

Parks Department courts should not be reserved for neighborhood residents any more than playgrounds should be. I should feel welcome to play in Riverside and someone from Harlem should feel welcome here. Of course, most people will play where it is most convenient, so the court here will always be dominated by local folk, is my guess.

However, there may be a bigger issue at hand. The online system for other courts requires a $15 per hour fee. This is above and beyond the full-season permit fee required by the Parks Department, which costs $100 per year. You can do the math, but even if you play just once a week, it adds up (of course, you can split it with your partner/s). If you don’t make an online reservation, you can walk on for free if the court is open. However, how the parks staff will know who is signed up and who is not is not yet hammered out.

At Washington Market, starting in April 2020, the system could work something like this:

  • Players can make advanced reservations online up to seven full calendar days in advance.
  • Players cannot make reservations the same day of play.
  • Any courts that are not reserved using the online reservation system remain open to walk-ons.
  • Players can rebook or modify an existing reservation one time, however, online reservations are non-refundable and non-transferable
  • Players with rained out reservations may rebook them at any time during the course of the permit season.
  • Players can have no more than one active reservation per day.

This will require some finessing on the part of the Parks Department, and maybe a reconsideration of the hourly fee. Stay tuned.



  1. As an occasional user of the court I think the current system works ok but the online system would eliminate a lot of waiting around very early in the morning. This will change things from who has time to wake up early in the morning to hang out by the park entrance to who is fastest on the keyboard!

    Moving to an online system doesn’t solve the issue of people giving lessons on the court or people signing up and then having someone else use the court. The only way to fix that would be to have someone actually check people’s tennis permits match the reservation booking every hour.

    Also, the only reason that there would be spots filled on the sign in sheet before 7am is because people start lining up earlier than 7am to sign up. If you get there at 6:15am you will get your court time!

    Obviously abuse of the park staff is unacceptable and should not be tolerated (revoke their permits?).

  2. I am strongly in favor of switching to the online system.
    I am a long time resident of Tribeca and avid tennis player. It is unfair that the same group of people monopolize the court and it is a contest to see who can get their early.
    Can someone post how to express their opinion to the NYC parks dept. Thank you

  3. I think a fair compromise for online reservations for the Chambers St tennis court is to have 2 or 3 hours per day available for online reservations. And the online reservation should be available starting at Noon one week before. Central Park and Riverside courts have 2 to 5 courts for online reservations. I think the equivalent for the single court on Chambers is 2 or 3 hours per day for online reservations.

    If the Parks Dept can’t put a computer in the Washington Market Park, maybe they could provide Park employees with a cell phone to which would be texted a list of reservations for each day.

    I work nights and the earliest I can get to the signup booth is 1030am. I play three times a week on Chambers Street, and I am totally dependent on my partner who stands in line for 45 minutes at 6:15am.

    I think it’s totally unfair to have only same-day 7am signups on Chambers. A possible remedy would be: At 6pm half the reservations would be available for the following day. At 7am the following day the other have of the reservations would be available. For example: at 6pm even hours would be available for the following day = 8am, 10, noon, 2pm, 4, 6, 8, 10. At 7am the following day the odd hours: 9am, 11, 1pm, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11.

    You can email comments to Parks dept:
    Jamal Patterson jamal.patterson@parks.nyc.gov
    Ralph Musolino Ralph.Musolino@parks.nyc.gov

  4. This is a shocking justification for the Parks Department to make more money from the players. This is ONE court. It is a neighbourhood court. I have been a player there for over 30 years and see new players on the court all the time. If you go to any court in the city you will see many of the same players on a court. There is no reason that even if you work and you want to play that you cannot get a court. Online booking would mean that players who play a lot would have to pay a lot to play. Very disappointed that the Parks Department would even consider this an option when we already pay for our permits $100. New York City only for those who can afford it?

  5. please provide info on who to contact to support this system implementation

  6. Online system!! We need this