The thwacking of the ball provided the perfect soundtrack to a summer day.
And for David Rojas, who grew up here, it was a handball homecoming.
A coach who has won three world championships, Rojas was part of a group gathered Tuesday morning to celebrate the renovation of the courts in Chelsea Park on West 27th Street.
“I grew up in this neighborhood,” Rojas said. “So seeing these courts come to an optimal level right now is great.”
Rojas recently became enshrined in the Handball Hall of Fame. “I played organized sports as a kid,” he said. “So when you came out here, it was like a whole new world. Everybody's such a close-knit family.”
The morning was marked by a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new handball courts, which were renovated by the Fairway Community Foundation at a cost of $77,500.
According to Council Member Corey Johnson’s office, the renovations included “stripping, patching, and painting of six walls, restriping of the walls in accordance with Parks Department standards, the relining of court pavement and repairs to the mesh on the eastern side of the courts.” The Fairway foundation also renovated a handball court in Brooklyn.
Parks Department Commissioner Michael Silver expressed his delight to the small gathering of community members and kids. After the ceremony, youngsters participated in a clinic with the St. Albans Handball Association.
Alissa Silverstein, director of the Fairway Community Foundation, said the market was connecting with the community.
“Here we are, celebrating the completion of a project that has allowed us to give back in a tangible way,” Silverstein said. “This is just the beginning.” She also announced that next spring the foundation will host a citywide handball tournament in collaboration with St. Albans.
State Senator Brad Hoylman touted the ease of the sport and its health benefits as reasons the new courts would surely see a lot of action.
“Talk about a pickup game,” he said. “I mean, you can go anywhere. It’s a sport that I think is often neglected, but it really is the backdrop for so much activity in New York City life.”
Silver, the parks commissioner, joked at first that he was just there to observe. But he and Hoylman later tried their hands at handball.
For a more experienced star of the game, the occasion mixed memories with excitement for the future.
“I did play handball at P.S. 92 when I was a kid,” Silver said. “These courts look amazing ... Fairway was looking to refurbish a part of a park that is quintessential to the New York City experience. And what fits better than handball?”