No reservations needed for Washington Market Park tennis

If it wasn’t 60 degrees this week, a quarter of the way through December, I might not have included this post now, but I noticed that the court at Washington Market Park is now first-come-first-served, at least for the immediate future. And it seemed time to address what a lot of local players know already.

There is usually a daily saga around the sign-up sheet for the court. The rules require a permit from the Parks Department, but also a reservation for the court. The sign-up sheet is posted at the park house first thing in the morning for that day’s play, but I get regular complaints about the fraud going on.

People sign up their friends, a local player even offers it as a service, and there are instructors — both local and not — who hog up the court to give lessons, which is not permitted by the city without a permit and not permitted at all at this location. (Public spaces cannot be annexed for private business.) Then sometimes the sign-up sheet disappears, people’s names are crossed off, etc etc.

“It really has gotten out of control,” one player told me. “All these pros are making good money at the expense of the city and other players who want to use this PUBLIC court.”

(From the Parks Department press office: “We are aware of issues with tennis court use at Washington Market Park and are actively working to address.”)

I have had some suggestions come my way:

  • online reservations
  • first-come first served
  • post a sign saying teaching pros are not permitted on the court
  • require that permit numbers are checked against Parks Department records

Many other courts around the city have online reservations, but the catch there is oversight: our park is too small to be staffed, so it would be tough to regulate for instructors. Same goes with checking permits. During the pandemic, the court was first-come first-served, as are the three courts at Hudson River Park, but folks still complained that the pros had taken over.

Comment with other ideas…



  1. There is always a line of people wanting to play at all the tennis courts in the city. They should have turned that new kids area by Pier 26 into tennis courts.

  2. Will the courts on the West Side Highway be online reservation, at some point, do we know?

    For the WMP courts, getting up super early to sign the sheet, was definitely a pain, the timing of when the sheet would be put up was not always the same time, you never knew how many would be there and if you’d get the spot you want, and I agree there were clear tennis pros who were there to sign up for lessons with their clients, and I’ve seen a lot of arguments break out between key individuals on both sides of this debate. But for those of us who were not regulars, only did this on the days we work from home or weekends, being able to secure a spot (even if it meant going at 6am) was a huge bonus compared to the other courts. First come first serve does not work for those who are working, who cannot sit and wait for an hour before playing, who need to know what time they will play, and know that they will only be away for that hour. The WMP court then will be the same as the westside highway courts, impossible for many of us. The online courts are too far

    Do we know if this is temporary, and the signup sheet will be back in the spring for the new season? Surely there are ways to fix this, if it cannot be online, the signup sheet goes up at a reasonable and set time, no pros, no sign up for friends, etc.

    It is really a shame that the fights between those who are “overseeing” the court and those that are taking advantage to sign up clients and friends, has led to this!

  3. The Wash Market Park Court has been illegally privatized for decades by the Tribeca Tennis Godfather. I know this cos I was one of his Henry Hills. Now I’m in witness protection, can’t get any good bread, have to play pickleball. and previous in this pub.

  4. Should be online and would ensure permits, no friends, etc. why no courts going in on any piers?..

  5. The rules are quite clear, and posted on the WMP website and the NYC Parks website (no pros, no signing up for friends, no signing up for multiple hours, need permits, posting sheets at 7am, etc.).

    The issue is that none of these are enforced at WMP. The staffs put up the sheet whenever they feel like (sometimes before 6am, so the pros and regulars just sign up for multiple slots and the sheet is filled even if you show up at 6:30), They dont check permits (people put in fake names or someone else’s names and permit #s to get multiple slots), etc. The ability to get multiple slots is partly why it is attractive for the pros to come to WMP.

    Pre-pandemic, the park staffs would at least keep the sheet at their hut, check permits and the staffs would fill out the sheet (so people cannot cheat). Now, they just leave it out in the open and it becomes a free for all. All the other NYC tennis courts have reverted back to the pre-pandemic routine.

    All the WMP staffs need to do is spend 5 mins at exactly 7am each morning to do that routine, and a lot of the issues will go away. Unfortunately, they wont.

    • Since I am on the WMP board, I know the staff has been harassed regularly, over a couple decades, because of that sign-up sheet. And it is difficult for them to argue with players who have a thousand reasons why they don’t have their card, or why they have to sign up their friend, etc etc. I don’t blame them for not wanting to deal with that.

  6. Clearly, we need more tennis courts downtown. Anyone on the CB1? Lots of space next to Seaport/Tin Building that can be utilized for courts. Someone please make it happen!