Tennis Bubble, Restaurant Coming to McCarren?

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The bubble has burst in Williamsburg’s housing market, but could a new one be built over the McCarren Park Tennis Courts in the coming years?

Two projects to rehabilitate McCarren Park’s dilapidated facilities could soon be pondered by North Brooklyn residents. The ideas to resurface and construct a bubble over the park’s tennis courts, enabling year-round usage, and the conversion of the park’s field house into a private restaurant were floated by several business owners at a Community Board 1 Parks Committee meeting on February 22.

The costs for each could rise well into the millions and must require a “Request for Proposal” issued by the Parks Department, but that has done little to dissuade business members interest in renovating two well-worn areas in the north and south of McCarren Park.

Greenpoint residents Arthur Bobko and Stash Rys, who emigrated from Poland to Brooklyn in the 1990s, have expressed strong interest in constructing a bubble over the McCarren Park tennis courts (Bedford Avenue and North 12th Street) for winter usage, after playing on them throughout the year for much of the past decade. Bobko, who runs the Riverdale Tennis Company in the Bronx, even won a tournament hosted by a friends group this past October, which raised money to resurface cracked courts and replace sagging nets.

According to Bobko, the idea would help facilitate necessary improvements to the tennis courts including “re-leveling, re-netting, re-surfacing, ongoing maintenance as well as drainage, locker facilities and showers,”

“A seasonal bubble would go up in the winter months and come down every spring, rendering the courts usable all year round,” said Bobko. “But the decision on whether to move forward is up to the Williamsburg and Greenpoint community.”

Similarly, Greenpoint business owners Thomas Chabrowski and Bob Levitt, who are partners at Mark Bar (1025 Manhattan Avenue) and Forest Natural (120 Norman Avenue) have an idea to add a restaurant in the existing McCarren Park Field House, but they are looking for more community input.

With a tentative name — Park Picnic — the proposed restaurant would serve burgers, fries and milk shakes as well as beer and wine, pending a liquor license. According to Levitt, their proposal would restore the facility to include expanding bathroom stalls, adding a walkable chess set, a new bocce court, and even a children’s play area.

“This is a big budget kind of thing,” said Levitt. “We presented a preliminary plan to see if the community board would be receptive at all. We haven’t sat down with an architect. We were advised to wait before starting up anything more than a simple outline.”

A spokesperson with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation said that both projects could cost well over $1 million each, and would have to receive significant community input in order to move forward.

Parks Committee members proposed that the Mark Bar owners start off slowly by launching a concessions cart with tables near the filed house this summer to determine interest in the site while encouraging the tennis representatives to reach out to the community.

McCarren Tennis founder Sean Hoess, who has raised money for resurfacing the courts in October 2009, said that constructing a bubble is one of several options out there for improving the courts.

“Our goals incorporate a more easily attained step one, which is really just resurfacing the courts and making them playable in the short term. Certainly the idea of playing tennis year round is a great idea. Obviously there are many issues to work out regarding that, but I don’t see who wouldn’t want to see that happen.”

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