Today’s news:

‘Tear down this wall’ - J.J Byrne Pk rehab starts

Handball players took a forced vacation from J.J. Byrne Memorial Park this week, as workers demolished their courts, all in the name of progress.

The development comes just a few weeks after the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation promised to keep the courts open, and work around them as long as possible.

This week it seems, it was time to tear down those walls.

“I can confirm that handball courts closed as part of the construction,” said Phil Abramson, a Parks spokesperson.

Two weeks ago, the second phase of renovation work at the park, located at Fourth Avenue and Fifth Street, began. The work will span one year, and see the creation of a turf field in place of asphalt.

We tried to keep them open as long as they could,” Abramson said. “In order for the progress of the construction to move forward, we had no choice but to close them.”

The agency had previously promised that the players would never be left without their courts, which stand in the shadow of the Novo building, 343 Fourth Avenue, a condominium project by Boymelgreen Developers.

Boymelgreen—who used the park—and two of the eight handball courts—as a staging area during the construction of its 12-story builidng—agreed to initiate $1.6 million worth of renovations, as part of a deal with the city.

But while the work has been proceeding, it lags behind schedule.

“Initially, we weren’t going to start phase two until phase one was done,” Abramson said. “But we needed to get the ball rolling and start phase two.”

“Rather than close immediately, we kept them open two weeks, he added.

Abramson said the city’s contractor was already in place, and the decision was made to avoid delaying the project indefinitely.

The eight new handball courts are not yet finished, nor are the planned basketball courts, skate park and dog run.

“We have been inspecting the park regularly, and are in contact with Boymelgreen,” Abramson said. “We are optimistic it will open soon.”

He said the newly renovated park could officially open in “a matter of weeks.”

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