Parks commissioner works on his pickleball skills

Parks Commissoner Mitch Silver gets ready to serve during a game of pickleball.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Commissioner Mitch Silver doesn’t mind a little sweat. That’s appropriate given that this Haitian-descent New Yorker is the NYC Parks Commissioner.

It was a pleasant surprise to see the commish in athletic get-up last week at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center near Houston Street to play pickleball. It’s the same center he first played the game while making a site visit two years ago.

Pickleball is very popular low-impact competitive sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong. Using paddles, two or four players hit a Wiffle-like plastic ball over a net.

The game was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, Washington by three dads who came up with this summer activity for their bored kids. The sport has gained a foothold in retirement communities across the country and in New York City, it’s so popular that NY Parks held a series of pickleball clinics at McCarren Park in Brooklyn, earlier this year.

Commenting on the game’s popularity, Dapolito Center manager Trevor Merk says, “Since I’ve been here, we’ve added two more days to the pickleball schedule. The public demanded it!”

Players travel from all boroughs to play at Dapolito. “We offer the most court time for pickleball at a Parks center, city-wide,” Merk notes.

“Our court accommodates players the best — it’s wide and we have pickleball specific lines on our court thanks to a recent gym revamp,” he added.

Many other Parks centers schedule pickleball for members. The Roy Wilkins Recreation Center in Jamaica and Al Oerter Center in Flushing, Queens; East 54th St., Chelsea, and Gertrude Ederle in Manhattan and Brownsville Recreation Center offer pickleball.

With one of Dapolito’s pickleball regulars clarifying the rules and calling the shots and out–of-bounds, the parks commissioner teamed up with Donna Corrado, Commissioner of Department for the Aging to sweat it out against NY1 reporters. The cable news channel was producing a promotion segment on the NYC Parks third annual Senior Games in Brooklyn.

The Olympic-style Senior Games were primarily held at the Brownsville Recreation Center, open to members of the citywide senior recreation centers. Almost 500 people registered this year to compete in games including pickleball, as well as swimming, basketball, track and field and other competitive games. It ran May 7 – May 11.

Additionally, a pickleball tournament on June 9 with three categories of ages of competitors (ages 18 to 55-and over) is scheduled from 8 am – 5 pm at the Roy Wilkins Park tennis courts in Queens.

As for the commissioner and the good sport (and good at sports) that he is, as he was leaving his workout with Commissioner Corrado, without missing a beat, he joined for a quick minute, Naomi Haas’ weekly Dance for a Variable Population movement class in the adjoining gym. With gusto, he followed the class routines, keeping the beat. No wonder. It is said that the commissioner is a very good dancer.

After an intense game of pickleball, without missing a beat, Commissioner Silver joins for a moment, Dances for a Variable Population.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

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