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Summer Guide 2015

How to Get on an Empty Tennis Court

NYU's Coles sports center  

If You’re a Night Owl: After being shut down post-Sandy, the lights are back on at Hudson River Park, keeping the three courts playable until midnight (head there around 10 p.m. for late-night, less-crowded play)—and they’re completely free, no permit required.
Hudson River Greenway nr. Spring St.;

If You Want a Country-Club Vibe: The cream of the crop of permit-only courts are on Roosevelt Island, where the Octagon residential complex’s courts boast DecoTurf, working lights, and views of the East River. $187 will secure a 15-month pass. Come on off-prime hours (weekday mornings or weekend nights) for your best chance at walking straight onto a court.
Main St., Roosevelt Island;

If You’re up for an Adventure: It’s the rare public high school that has its own courts (teams are known to travel hours on the subway for court time), but a couple odd courts are scattered like afterthoughts on campuses across the city, like those at William Cullen Bryant High School (48-10 31st Ave., Long Island City) and Boys and Girls High School (1700 Fulton St., Bedford-Stuyvesant). We’re not explicitly suggesting you break the law, merely pointing out that when the principal’s gone for the summer, these courts tend to be empty.

If You’re Cheap but Law-Abiding: Can’t stomach the $200 fee for a city permit but can’t bear to hop a fence? State parks have courts, too, and the season pass costs only $15, so you can proudly display your legally purchased right-to-play at one of the four courts at Riverbank State Park.
679 Riverside Dr.; to avoid potential wait time, email or call 212-694-3637 to reserve a court in advance.

If You Live Within a Mile of NYU: Community members can pay $108 for a 12-visit pass to the rooftop and indoor courts at NYU’s Coles sports center. You can just walk in and get your name on a list, but it’s best to call the day prior before 2 p.m. to reserve a court.
181 Mercer St.; 212-998-2079;

If You Have a Car: Drive about 30 minutes up to Crotona Park in the Bronx. With its 20 courts, ample street parking, water fountains, restrooms, and the about-to-open (June 15) clubhouse for Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning, it may as well be a club in the burbs. Head here in the mornings (with your city pass, or pay $15 for same-day play), as the 3 to 6 p.m. slot gets crowded with free lessons, camps, and programming through the New York Junior Tennis League, which now calls these courts home.
E. 173rd St. and Crotona Ave.