Sean O'Neil, 1988 & 1992 US Olympic Team, USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer, Portland OR
“Alan, I was very excited to learn that my local park had recently installed two HENGE tables for our community. As a two-time US Olympian, I am always looking for ways to use our sport to help bring people together. The placing of these two pieces of “Playable Art” by our library has been a BIG HIT!
"At first I imagined that the ball would slide on the concrete surface and the bounce wouldn’t be all that true. Boy, was I surprised when my teammate and I were able to execute all the strokes of modern table tennis with the heavy topspins and play from the back court. I don’t know how you got the surface to be so consistent, but congratulations on the great bounce and outstanding workmanship. I also work with Oregon Disabled Sports and thanks to this project we now have two permanent tables for our wheelchair players to use!
If you are speaking with any other communities about installing your tables I would be happy to share my personal and professional views on the quality and playability of your product for both the disabled and able body groups.”
Steve Chironis, CFO, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, New York
"The situation on Roosevelt Island is no different as it is in most communities, funds are limited and must be spent where they will provide the most benefit. When initially considering the HENGE ping pong tables, the trade-off for (3) tables was (6) eight foot park benches. The tables, which we expect to last at least 20 years, have given the community an additional inexpensive outdoor activity that is used by residents of all ages, including our disabled population. The island school and several day camps have subsequently added ping pong to their outdoor activities."
Michael Smith, Parks and Recreation Manager, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, New York
"The three tables are well loved by all ages here on Roosevelt Island. I get a warm feeling every time I pass the park, seeing the school children using the paddles we supplied them with, playing through the summer and long into the fall."
Kim Gledhill, graphic designer, New York
"Weird coincidences are the hallmark of my life, so it was fitting that the week after I came to the conclusion that the one material item conspicuously missing from my home was a ping-pong table, a beautiful outdoor table tennis platform appeared in Gulick Park, across the street. Granted, a ping-ping table would take up a good percentage my apartment, but having grown up in an old house with a table-tennis-equipped basement, I realized this was one of the few things about suburban living that I missed. I wished that a ping-pong table could be a part of my son’s childhood the way it was a part of mine. So when I saw it, I immediately knew that the Gulick Park table was a good omen.
"In my excitement about the concrete table—which looks like it was crafted by someone whose first love is sculpture — I contacted its owner, The Friends of Gulick Park. One thing led to another and I was asked if I’d like to join the organization and organize a ping-pong tournament. “Sure!” I said, already thinking of the same idea. And so was born the Gulick Park Ping-Pong Challenge...
"I’ve lived on the Lower East Side for three and a half years, and the inscription of Sidney Hillman’s quote on the gate to the Hillman Housing’s park always struck me: “We want a better America, an America that will give its citizens, first of all, a higher and higher standard of living so that no child will cry for food in the midst of plenty.” You don’t hear that too much anymore, but it’s reaffirming to have it literally set in stone at the place where I live. The planned renovation of Gulick Park and the addition of the ping-pong table are something of an extension of these idealistic principles. Ping-pong might not change the world, but it sure can give our community a point of intersection that it didn’t have before."
Gledhill's report in full here.
Left to right: Christy Burke, Kim Gledhill
Hough reports not on a HENGE table, but on a great game that a crowd of three to thirty can play on any ping pong table, in this case at a place called American Tripps. The game is not Beer Pong, and people play it all over the world. Hough's description of 'Berlin style ping pong' rings so true for what we've observed in outdoor ping pong in New York that we included it in this section. After all, playing outdoors in a park or school is all about meeting people. Thanks to Hough for his post, to American Tripps for transplanting the idea to San Francisco, and to American Oliver Miller for starting Dr. Pong in Berlin in the early 2000's.
"One of the great things about Berlin-style ping-pong is how social it is. You find yourself next to strangers in the circle, and you have this common sports drama to bond over. Somebody makes a wild shot, and you’re all cheering and exchanging critiques together. You recognize players of similar skill levels to your own, and you root for them. Pretty soon you're friends."