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Top 10 NYC Neighborhoods for the Sports Enthusiast
If you're passionate about staying fit, keeping active, and playing sports--whether team sports in an organized league or individual pursuits such as track, swimming, golf, or tennis--New York City (and our friends across the Hudson in Northern New Jersey) has a neighborhood for you. Because while NYC has always embraced the excitement and energy and wildness implied by the "concrete jungle" tag (though these days, it's often more like a glass-and-steel jungle), this is also an extremely sports-friendly town.
Vast swaths of parks and playing fields, a runnable and bikeable waterfront that extends almost all the way around Manhattan, parks with playing fields, and, in some neighborhoods, a gym on almost every block make this a haven for those looking to keep fit, and those who want wish to play recreational sports. Here then, for the urban athlete, in no particular order, is the Urban Edge Top 10 Neighborhoods for the Sports Enthusiast.
Park Slope / Prospect Heights
Either of these beautiful South Brooklyn neighborhoods offer residents ready access to the great Prospect Park, with its 3.35-mile cycling and running loop, its ample of baseball, softball and soccer fields--the site of many youth and adult leagues--a terrific indoor tennis facility, a hockey/skating rink, and even a three-and-a-half-mile bridle path for horseback riding. But while both communities offer lots of opportunity for for participation sports, Park Slope gets the nod over Prospect Heights for its plethora of gyms, as well being the site of the huge, newly renovated YMCA Park Slope Armory, home to tons of organized indoor sports activities throughout the year.
Upper West Side
Even though Manhattan's Upper West Side is one of the borough's largest neighborhoods, no matter where you live here, you're never more than a couple of blocks away from a world-class park, either the brilliant Central Park or the excellent Riverside Park. Combine the two you have literally dozens of playing fields and ball courts for nearly every team sport you can name--softball, baseball, soccer, ultimate, hockey, basketball, volleyball, beach volleyball--plus a skatepark, a kayak launch, horse riding, and miles and miles of running and cycling options.
In addition to having what must be the most gyms per block of any neighborhood in all of New York City, Manhattan's Chelsea also boasts the town's largest, liveliest sports complex, Chelsea Piers. This massive, multi-building athletic temple, situated scenically right on the Hudson River, offers Chelsea residents ready access to basketball courts, a hockey rink, indoor and outdoor soccer fields, a huge climbing wall (10,000 square feet with a 55-foot overhang!) for all skill levels, batting cages, a driving range, professional gymnastics training, and is home to some of the most competitive leagues around. Runners and cyclists who live in Chelsea take full advantage of the Hudson River Park, as well, which runs almost the entire length of the island.
Flushing / Corona Park
The neighboring Queens communities of Flushing and Corona make the list for their proximity to the sprawling, historic Flushing Meadows - Corona Park, at 1,255 acres the second largest in all of New York City. In addition to the usual bike paths, running loops, and dozens of ball courts and playing fields here--cricket and soccer leagues are especially active at Flushing Meadows - Corona Park--there is also the 93-acre man-made Meadow Lake, where crew teams practice and race.
Upper East Side
Central Park, with all of its playing fields and organized leagues, its cycling and running tracks, is the most obvious reason why the Upper East Side is a neighborhood coveted by sports lovers. But athletes on the upper east side of the Upper Side East also take full advantage of the runner's promenade by the East River, the ball courts at Carl Schurz Park, and the great Asphalt Green sports complex, with its basketball, gymnastic, swim, and water polo teams, as well as its professional-level training and coaching programs for all interests and ages and abilities.
Riverdale / Fieldston
These two adjoining Bronx neighborhoods, more suburban than urban in character, are right next door to the huge Van Cortlandt Park, offering residents more than a thousand acres of sports and recreation facilities. In addition to the expected benefits for sports-enthusiasts--cricket leagues are especially active here--Van Cortlandt Park also offers residents Riverdale and Fieldston a world-class, 2.5-mile cross country course, New York City's largest freshwater lake and America's oldest public golf course.
Ok, so there's a very specific type of athletes-namely, surfers--who will love the Queens neighborhood of Rockaway Beach, hard by the Atlantic Ocean on what happens to be the largest urban beach in America. The two designated "surf beaches" are located between 67th and 69th Streets, and then again between 87th and 92nd Streets, and New Yorkers travel here from all five boroughs to catch some waves... and then, usually, eat some tacos at the great Rockaway Taco.
On Staten Island, the north shore community of Silver Lake borders Silver Lake Park, more than 200 acres of fields and facilities for neighborhood sports lovers. Silver Lake Park has plenty of playing fields--football, baseball, and soccer--as well as basketball and tennis courts and a 18-hole public golf course.
Jersey City's West Side
Sports enthusiasts who are fortunate enough to move into an apartment in one of the lovely Victorian houses or pre-war buildings in Jersey City's West Side neighborhood are also treated to all of the athletic facilities and possibilities of Lincoln Park. Situated right in the heart of the West Side community, Lincoln Park is, at 273 acres, the municipality's second largest and most thoughtfully designed public green space, and includes lots of playing fields and ball courts, pathways for running and biking, as well as a golf range, tennis courts and an outdoor track.
The Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg may be more well known these days for its restaurants, nightlife, and interesting outfits of its residents, but this is also a solid community for athletes. The centrally located McCarrren Park, for instance, has a terrific, newly renovated track; it provides the fields for active leagues in several team sports, including baseball and soccer; it has a well-designed outdoor "weight room"; and the whole thing is under the lights, so when the weather is warm, you can play well into the night.