Noise complaints prompt closures at pickleball courts

A popping sound echoing through the morning stillness has pitted a troop of senior-citizen athletes against some small but motivated number of noise-conscious neighbors, placing the village's mayor and council in the position — notice we spared you from reading us call this "a pickle" — of peacemaker.

"Pickleball players vs. neighbors," Ridgewood Mayor Susan Knudsen said.

Responding to repeated noise complaints, Knudsen padlocked the Bergen County village's four brand-new pickleball courts for three months from December through February, during the pandemic winter.

"It's kind of an assault against our seniors," pickleball player Monica Bangash said.

"A lot of the people who played here are now playing in other towns," pickleball player Lillian Blood said.

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The village then decided to restrict courts to Ridgewood residents like Lillian and David Blood only, kept courts closed Monday and Friday and delayed their opening until 9 a.m. on other weekdays, 10 a.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. on Sundays. 

"It's just too hot," Bangash said. "It's too hot for me in my 50s, let alone them in their 80s."

"These are beautiful courts. It's a great facility," pickleball player Suzanne Willis said. "The village already invested the money so let's realize the value of that."

The village also invested tens of thousands of dollars more in soundproofing for the courts. Players bought sound-muffling balls and rackets. Neighbors reportedly spent money to insulate their homes.

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And still, the repeated pop, pop, pop of pickleball keeps these courts closed for a few — players say crucial — cooler hours, when the tennis courts in the village remain open, forcing seniors who found community in this fastest-growing sport in America during the pandemic's darkest hours to brave the heat during those select windows in which these courts — beside a noisy school, playground, and soccer field — remain open.

"We were with each other when one of our friends' husbands died," player Gene Solomon said. "We celebrated the marriage of two of our pickleball players."

"The noise is not as bad as is being portrayed," Bangash said.

"We hope everyone will appreciate this compromise," the mayor said.

"You don't solve a problem by creating another problem," Solomon said. "You try to find a solution. And for me, the solution is pretty easy."

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