The Riverside Park Fund and the Riverside Clay Tennis Association (RCTA) have launched a $5.5 million capital campaign to transform an abandoned parking lot near the 96th street red clay tennis courts in Manhattan into a sustainable park maintenance facility with new carbon-neutral public restrooms.
The facility, called Green Outlook, will provide a landscaped Hudson River overlook with a wildflower meadow, and will feature bathrooms that use compost toilet technologies, solar energy, and recycled materials.
In this article, USTA Eastern volunteer Daisy Schwartz asked Mark McIntyre, Executive Director of RCTA and a member of USTA Eastern’s Board of Directors, about how he got involved in the RCTA and about the ongoing fundraising effort to develop the new facility.
How did you first get into tennis and the RCTA?
Twenty years or so ago, I used to hang out at the clay courts every afternoon looking for pick up games. I started volunteering to help fix up the courts, which were in pretty bad shape. I got invited onto the Board of the volunteer group and then, they hired me to expand the organization and find the funds to transform the dirt courts into the red clay courts.
What inspired you to create a sustainable structure, Green Outlook?
Neccessity, really. What used to be a pretty isolated part of the park is now extremely busy thanks to the success of the tennis courts and the extension of the Hudson River Greenway. We now get thousands of people everyday. These people need a bathroom. The sewer system doesn't come this far. We had to figure a way to get bathrooms here and green seemed to be the best – and most responsible – way to go. While there are one or two public composting restrooms in NYC, this will be the first to use solar power and, if we get appropriate permissions, the first to use the compost to fertilize public flower gardens. In other words, it will be a totally self contained, off-grid complex.
Besides a grassroots effort, how else do you plan to get the word out about Green Outlook?
We are reaching out to bicycling groups, local schools, runners’ groups – other organizations with large memberships who are affected by what goes on in Riverside Park.
What fundraisers and other activities are you planning this summer to help generate donations for Green Outlook?
We have a couple of possibilities in the works involving some pro players – both active and retired. We have a huge walkathon planned for the fall, in mid-October, and we are thinking about having a dinner on the site, which is now an abandoned parking lot.
What is your target date for Green Outlook to open?
We'd love to have a ribbon-cutting by the end of 2013, but that is going to depend on the success of our fundraising efforts this summer.
Do you feel that once this project is completed others will follow?
I do. Absolutely. If this is a success – and I am convinced it will be – I think it will serve as a model for future parks’ public restrooms.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I just want to invite everyone reading this down to our summer concerts, which are free, and which we have every Saturday night at 7pm starting June 9th through the end of August. Go to www.rcta.info to see our schedule. We have a different style of music every week.