Popular sport of pickleball makes way to two parks in greater Riverdale

But is it enough to fulfill demand for pickleball players?


At Riverdale Playground, a perfectly good pickleball court now lies underneath the basketball courts and adjacent to the handball courts. However, according to pickleball afficiando Alex Rosenblum, it needs some work.

As proposed in March, the court takes one of the two handball courts in the playground below the hill from the basketball courts. Furthermore, the entire installation was done by the city’s parks department.

“We worked closely with the Community Board and local stakeholders to find a suitable location for this court” said Gregg McQueen, city parks press officer. “We will continue to explore avenues to expand pickleball opportunities for Bronxites as the sport continues to grow in popularity.”

The new pickleball court festooned with a multi-colored wall officially opened on July 15, according to the parks department. It joins several other courts in the Bronx as well. Some of them, like Pelham Bay, can have up to four courts. But Riverdale was supposed to see pickleball by Memorial Day, and residents said the agency delayed the installation without notice. But the agency clarified it had other ongoing Bronx projects.

Despite granting Rosenblum’s wish for a court, he was not satisfied because he said that for a pickleball court to function, you need at least two courts, not one. The parks department currently only has one in Van Cortlandt Park and now one in Riverdale Playground.

It all made sense as he explained pickleball rules to The Riverdale Press. Playing like this is easier when there are two or more courts, he said as he demonstrated some pickleball action.

You show up to the court. “There are already four people playing, and two more show up, ok so what’s the rule?” he said. “The losers have to get off, and you’re talking about 15 minutes of play. Then the two people who were waiting play the winners.”

Rosenblum expects at least six people to wait and play in the morning, and that can change the rules immensely because all the players will need to get off the court to allow the other group to play.

This is called Pickleball etiquette, as the Sin City Festival Pickleball Club calls it. Waiting to play is entirely normal in this game, as there are rules for that too.

Players don’t jump to play in the game when they think their time to play is up. They must put their paddle on a rack, or in this case, stick the paddle’s handle inside one of the gate holes to perform a line to show they’re waiting. “It’s very civil,” Rosenblum said.

“People are going to get annoyed if they wait too long or run after the ball,” he continued.  “They’ll just join The (Riverdale) Y or go to Yonkers.”

Like Van Cortlandt Park, there are no walls or barriers to prevent players out of bounds from chasing the ball if the player misses a shot. But in Van Cortlandt Park, Michael Ortiz, the chief of staff for the parks Bronx borough commissioner, took Rosenblum’s “wise wisdom” and promised to install a 4-foot fence.

Yet, the same thing happened here: The Riverdale Press went one-on-one with the pickleball player and was forced to enter the handball court to retrieve the out-of-play ball.

“It’s not enjoyable, right?” Rosenblum asked.

And ironically, the basketball courts up the steps faced a similar situation. A teen playing teen needed to run down the steps to retrieve his basketball. Then he needed to run up. They said if they “mess up,” it’s annoying to chase after it, but they’re OK with it.

And lastly, there will need to be park maintenance often as the trees provide shade for the court, it also provides a mess. Tree bark can be found around the ground as well as leaves.

As The Press sat by the court, pieces of bark were falling onto the ground.

“It’s almost self-defeating; in order to play, people are going to need to bring brooms,” Rosenblum said. “I would do it. It will take me five minutes, but why should I if I belong to the Riverdale Neighborhood House.”

The Riverdale Neighborhood House has several community classes, one being pickleball three days a week, mainly at night, and one in the morning.

One way Rosenblum believes something can be done about maintaining the pickleball courts and building more fencing to keep balls from winding up in the nearby handball courts. He suggests asking students from nearby schools do such work paid for through grants.

He suggests such schools as Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy, P.S. 24 Spuyten Duyvil, and Atmosphere Academy Public Charter Schools.

But he doesn’t want to get involved with grants for only one court because there are legal processes, and he would need to form a not-for-profit to collect donations.

There are options to raise money for improvements they would like to see made by the parks, called Support NYC Parks.