Good Wednesday morning. It’s damp and gray outside.
It’s just you and a friend, a ball and a wall.
One of our city’s most enduring warm-weather pastimes, handball, is also one of the simplest.
And as with so many of life’s great pleasures, New York City played a central role in its development.
While humans have been slapping balls against walls for thousands of years — in Egypt, the Roman baths and specially designed courts in the pre-Columbian Americas — the modern predecessor of handball was developed around a millennium ago in Ireland.
In the late 19th century, Irish immigrants brought the sport to New York City, where Irish priests taught it to students in the city’s parochial schools. An Irish immigrant handball star, Phil Casey, built the first walled handball court in Brooklyn in 1886.
New York’s outdoor version of the sport, which used one wall instead of three, gained popularity in the early 1900s, when it was played against wooden jetties in Coney Island and Brighton Beach. When the tide was low, players drew courts in the sand. During the Depression, hundreds of courts were constructed in the city — mostly because they were cheap.
Today the city has more than 2,000 outdoor courts, more than for any other sport, so it makes sense that some of the best handball players hail from here.
Timothy Gonzalez, 26, of Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, is one of the top-ranked players in the world. Mr. Gonzalez, who is known as Timbo, said that these days, professional handballers from New York stand out in competitions for their pugnacious style.
“We’re known for trash talking and being physical, like street basketball,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “It’s like a boxing match, we’re very passionate about the win, and no one wants to lose because everyone has a rep to maintain.”
Handball involves more strategy than people realize, he added. “It’s a very mental game.”
And like many of New York’s most iconic institutions — public libraries, parks and the subway — handball courts are egalitarian, Mr. Gonzalez said.
“You don’t need special clothes, you can play in a suit or jeans,” he said. “All you need is a ball.”
Here’s what else is happening:
• After years of halting steps, top prosecutors and elected officials in New York City made a sudden dash toward ending many of the marijuana arrests that for decades have entangled mostly black and Hispanic people. [New York Times]
• In a cavernous hearing room adjacent to the State Capitol in Albany, a bipartisan, bicameral committee interviewed candidates to fill out Eric T. Schneiderman’s term as attorney general. [New York Times]
• Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for the pornographic film star Stephanie Clifford, has emerged as a chief nemesis to Michael D. Cohen, who is under investigation for a payment to Ms. Clifford. [New York Times]
• Cynthia Nixon made a campaign promise to impanel a Moreland Commission to examine corruption in state government. [New York Times]
• Tom Wolfe, an innovative journalist and novelist whose prose brought to life the worlds of astronauts and Manhattan’s moneyed status-seekers in works like “The Right Stuff” and “Bonfire of the Vanities,” died on Monday in a Manhattan hospital. The longtime New Yorker was 88. [New York Times]
• Mary Sansone, a Brooklyn social worker who created a robust community service organization that bridged racial and ethnic barriers, defied the Mafia and befriended supportive politicians, died on Monday in Brooklyn at 101. [New York Times]
• “They like to clap for people.” Our food critic reviews the Flatiron district restaurant Simon & the Whale. [New York Times]
• Did “Sex and the City” spur you to move to New York? The Times’s Style desk would like to hear your story. [New York Times]
• Speaking at an event honoring law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty, President Trump paid tribute to a New York City police officer who was shot and killed on the job last summer in the Bronx. [CBS New York]
• Taxing the sale of marijuana could generate $ 436 million annually for the state of New York and $ 336 million for New York City, according to a report from the city’s comptroller. [New York Post]
• The Coney Island boardwalk was designated a scenic landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. [Associated Press]
• Today’s Metropolitan Diary: “93rd and Third”
• For a global look at what’s happening, see Your Morning Briefing.
Coming Up Today
• The scientist-author Nathan Lents discusses “Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, From Pointless Bones to Broken Genes,” at the Mid-Manhattan Library in Midtown. 6:30 p.m. [Free, registration recommended]
• Welcome to outdoor movie season. Watch a screening of “The Space Between Us,” at the Tecumseh Playground on the Upper West Side, weather permitting. 7:30 p.m. [Free]
• “Unladylike,” part comedy show, part serious discussion, 100 percent feminist, at the Bell House in Gowanus, Brooklyn. 8 p.m. [$ 15]
• Looking ahead: Enter a lottery today for a chance to camp out with Urban Park Rangers in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx on May 25. [Free]
• Yankees at Nationals, 7:05 p.m. (YES). Mets host Blue Jays, 1:10 p.m. (SNY).
• Alternate-side parking remains in effect through May 20.
• For more events, see The New York Times’s Arts & Entertainment guide.
And Finally …
One hundred and 99 years ago, New York City began its love affair with another sport: bicycling.
The first bicycles — known then as “swift walkers,” “velocipedes” or “dandy horses” — were introduced to the United States in 1819 here in New York City.
The proto-bikes had wooden frames, wooden wheels covered in leather and seats that allowed riders to dangle their legs on either side and push themselves along. (As you can imagine, riding one looked awfully silly.)
And it didn’t take long for our city to regulate the new contraptions.
By August 1819, the Common Council passed “a law to prevent the use of velocipedes in the public places and on the sidewalks of the City of New York.”
The skirmish between the city and cyclists continues. A group of e-bike activists gathered this week at City Hall demanding that the city clarify laws surrounding pedal-assist bikes. They say the police use the laws to punish food delivery workers.
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