Nancy Bruning and friend Marianne Prebet enjoy the newly resurfaced ping-pong tables at the 190th Street Subway Terrace.
Photo: Ingrid Menendez
If you’re like me, tennis is not exactly your diversion of choice. It seems like such a commitment. It seems serious. It seems like playing an actual sport. And, it seems
you need to be as fit as Serena or Venus Williams to play it!
There is an alternative – and one that offers many of the same wellness advantages.
Ping-pong, a.k.a. “table tennis”.
No question about it – ping-pong can get really serious.
There are international tournaments, Olympic competitions, etc.
But it has many advantages over court tennis or even watching tennis on TV for the average person.
Unlike court tennis, you can play ping-pong in a small place.
How New York!
Too, you can play ping-pong, be terrible at it and still have a great time, if your opponent is also not so serious. In fact, the worse you are, the more of a workout it
is because you need to chase those missed balls all over the place.
Finally, in Washington Heights, we have four outdoor ping-pong tables that are free
and open to the public.
You may have passed them if you’ve ever been at the 190th Street “A” train subway entrance.
If this is news to you, you’re not alone.
Although there are 54 tables in park recreation centers across the boroughs, there are outdoor tables in only four parks in New York City.
The New York Times got it wrong in a recent article—they wrote there are only three parks with outdoor tables: one table in Tompkins Square, two in Bryant Park, and another one in Gulick Park on the Lower East Side.
Ha-ha! We have four!
More than anybody, although I admit they have most often been used to hold food and beverages for birthday parties.
Hopefully, the tables will turn a bit now that their surfaces have been beautified, thanks to the Fort Tryon Park Trust.
"The Trust is eager to diversify and expand our fitness and recreational programming in Fort Tryon,” said Trust Executive Director Jennifer Hoppa.
“Therefore, to build upon the ongoing revitalization and restoration work of the Friends Committee, which hosts monthly beautification days in the Subway Terrace, the Trust funded the ping pong table's resurfacing by Oslo Industries of Brooklyn,” she added.
Previously the divots and potholes in the tables made them unsuitable for play.
But Oslo Industries ground away the years of paint and "skim coat" and the original concrete was resurfaced.
The hope is that community members will start thinking of the Subway Terrace as
the "Outdoor Living Room" of Fort Tryon.
The Trust is now working with the HENGE Company to have custom-made stainless steel nets for the tables.
“Come [late fall],” said Hoppa, “we also plan to provide paddles and balls on the weekends for public use, or people can drop by the cottage during regular business hours to pick up a set. In the meantime, you can bring your own set, which you can find at Modell's on 181st Street or IKEA.”
Modell’s is where I bought my set, and I’ve been using it “regularly,” about once every two or three years.
Hopefully, with the spiffy new resurfacing, the frequency with which I play will increase.
If you’re a stickler for such things, the table tennis official rules are specified in the International Table Tennis Federation handbook; they can also be found easily online.
The Fort Tryon Park Trust would be eager to sponsor a tournament this fall, if someone from the community has contacts and can coordinate the competition, according to Hoppa.
I, however, find ignoring these rules enhances my enjoyment of the game immeasurably. But how you play is up to you—as long as you and your opponent agree.
Ping-pong is often called “the world’s second most popular sport,” after soccer.
Come out and enjoy the ping-pong tables; get fit and have fun while doing it!
Nancy Bruning has a master’s degree in public health, is a certified personal trainer, and is the author or co-author of over 25 books on health and fitness, including the just-published “Nancercize: 101 Things to Do on a Park Bench.” She also is the Chair of the Friends Committee of the Fort Tryon Part Trust and leads outdoor fitness experiences and weight loss workshops. Visit Nancy’s web site at