If you have ever passed through Brooklyn Commons on a Thursday evening, you may have discovered something unusual going on… ping pong! What started as a month-long experiment aiming to bring fun and community spirit to Downtown Brooklyn proved such a smashing success that – with the help of Brookfield Properties and NYU Tandon School of Engineering – we extended the program through the summer.
To ensure that everyone has a great experience and fair playing time, we enlisted the help of The Push, a table tennis organization that runs “pop up” leagues and tournaments at venues throughout Brooklyn. Jared Sochinsky, founder of The Push, is the maestro of the event – effortlessly running the tables and wrangling the ever increasing crowds – and at this point knows almost every player that walks up to our tables by name.
To get Jared’s take on this new summer series, we sat down to ask him a few questions:
DBP: So you run a ping pong organization…how did you come up with that idea?
Jared: Table tennis has always been a game I love to play. A little over two years ago I noticed that there weren’t many tables around Brooklyn. There was bocce, shuffle board, video games spots, but no table tennis. So I started digging into the idea of opening my own “place for table tennis.” I started looking for spaces, and ways to get The Push out there…. and then I realized that bringing tables to the people was the best way to get the word out and the ball rolling (maybe I should say, “bouncing”).
DBP: What makes Downtown Brooklyn different than the other locations you pop-up tables at?
Jared: The first difference is that it’s an outdoor event. As a born and raised New Yorker, I can assure you that once the nice weather arrives, all I want to do is be outside having fun. This location has allowed uncountable numbers of people to do that, and I feel really lucky to have been a part of that. Another difference that I really enjoy about this location is the ability this venue gives me to connect people. I love matching people up who show up by themselves looking to play. It’s great seeing people introducing themselves and getting to know one another over a game of ping pong.
DBP: What is your favorite part about organizing free ping pong at MetroTech Commons?
Jared: It opens the floor up to so many more people and allows me to help people connect organically and encourage them to get off their phones for a minute and just be present. You could say that it’s part of my mission statement. Getting people to just have fun, meet new people, and put the rough day of work behind them. Even just for a minute. It also allows more people to simply try it out for the first time. Just this week, a guy (Rob) came up to me and thanked me for organizing all this. He told me that he and his son had such a great time that he bought a mini table for their apartment the next day. That made me feel really good.
DBP: How does ping pong help foster community-building?
Jared: By being fun! I can say with confidence that everyone smiles at some point while they’re playing. And that alone can make a difference. Just by smiling more, I believe it helps our brains release serotonin. And just like a yawn, a smile is equally as contagious. It’s also a great way to meet people and easily break the ice.
DBP: Why and HOW do you remember everyone’s name?
Jared: This honestly goes back to my days teaching elementary school music. I found that if I didn’t know the children’s names it was impossible to manage the class – I was dead in the water. I started the brain exercise then. I also feel very fortunate to have so many people wanting to be part of this group and continuously show their support. Remembering everyone’s name allows me to do my part to help build the community. I can be that ice breaker.
DBP: If you could give a shout out to any Downtown Brooklyn ping pong regular, who would it be and why?
Jared: That’s a really hard one. We’ve been really lucky to see so many people come back each week and I honestly appreciate each and every one. Without naming names, I do really like the people that come out week after week by themselves, looking for someone new to play with. That’s the real spirit behind The Push, and it’s great to see it in so many different types of people.
DBP: What do you think of Downtown Brooklyn after running tables here?
Jared: Downtown Brooklyn is such a diverse neighborhood. It’s surprising how many different areas and people it connects. Having the tables out there each week has been a great way to experience that. It’s always good for me to sit back and reflect on why I do this and how much fun I’m having while doing it. I’ve been busting my *** trying to do my best to bring this to the people, and sometimes I feel like my bones are literally going to turn to dust! Seeing the masses come out each week makes it all worth it. Thanks for putting this together.
And thanks to you too Jared!