I mostly traveled by bike and spent five to 15 minutes on each court, taking notes and photos. On the worst pitches, I asked players how long the issues had existed. Sometimes the answer was “months”, sometimes “years”.
Each court was evaluated in four categories: size, quality of the playing surface, quality of the basket and atmosphere. Each category had a maximum score of 25.
Cut: Each field goal was worth three points, although an extra point was awarded to a field that had two full field baskets. (Some courts only had half courts, usually lined up side by side.)
Quality of the playing surface: The playing surface was rated for level, slipperiness and paint visibility.
Baskets: Are the rims bent or wobbly? The few courts that had a rarity in New York — nets — got extra points.
Atmosphere: This was the most subjective category. I tried to answer the question: Is the land in a nice park? The otherwise worn courts at Manhattan Beach Park, for example, got top vibe marks for sitting just feet from the sand and sea.
Using US Census data, my fellow data experts analyzed my findings to see if there was a correlation between the quality of a court and the neighborhoods they were in. Even removing court size and ambiance as factors, they found no correlation. between the quality of courts and the racial composition, income level and population of a neighborhood.
As my colleague and I did in our 2013 survey of Manhattan courts, I only surveyed courts maintained by the Department of Parks and Recreation. Other government agencies, including the Department of Education and the city’s housing authority, also operate public courts.
Here’s another tip: if you’re looking to embark on a Brooklyn court tour but aren’t sure where to start, consider your post-game meal. An unsung benefit of this project was visiting the borough’s famous ethnic neighborhoods and trying local cuisine: jerk chicken in East Flatbush, dumplings in Bay Ridge and overpriced in Williamsburg.