Another Downtown Team, Once Again Squeezed For Space

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:16

Work to remove PCBs in a public school displaces girls basketball league

Greenwich Village Yet another sports league is facing a space crunch in lower Manhattan.

Following an earlier report in Our Town Downtown about a successful girls' softball team that is struggling to find a home field, the commissioner of a girls' basketball league said his organization is facing a similar problem.

After 19 years of playing in the gymnasium at P.S. 41 in Greenwich Village, the Greenwich House Girls Basketball League was told this past summer they'd have to find a new place to play, said the league's commissioner, Harry Malakoff.

Malakoff said he was approached by a Deptartment of Education employee and told work was scheduled to occur in P.S. 41 to remove hazardous contaminants from light fixtures in the gym, and that it would be off limits for the rest of the year.

A DOE spokesperson said the work at P.S. 41 is part of the department's light fixture replacement program. According to the School Construction Authority's website, the authority is removing caulk that is used in lighting fixtures that contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in city schools. The program is part of an agreement worked out with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is formally known as the EPA/NYC PCB Program.

The spokesperson said the department expects to have the work at P.S. 41 completed by the end of February.

After calling over two dozen community organizations, schools, churches and parks facilities, Malakoff said he managed to cobble together two locations where the girls can play, but that the DOE should have done more to find a replacement home. "I think one of the problems is that priority is not given to the kids," said Malakoff. "Some of these adult sports groups book fields and gyms, and if they're limited, the kids get frozen out."

About 80 girls participate in the Greenwich House Girls Basketball League, ranging in age from 9 to 15. They play four games a weekend every Saturday from November to mid-March.

Malakoff said going forward the league will have their games in two different locations, splitting the season between a gym at a public school on West 33rd Street in November and December and a community center in Chelsea during January, February and March.

"I ran the gamut," said Malakoff of his months-long search for a new home. "The most common response I've gotten is, 'sorry, we're booked.'"

Malakoff said he doesn't fault the DOE for needing to do the work and displacing the girls, but said they could've helped the league find a new home.

"I think the fault lies mostly with the DOE for not helping," said Malakoff. "If they have a construction project that displaces youth groups they should help them find a new space. I don't think that's unreasonable."

Malakoff said the league just started its registration so he doesn't know if the change in venue will effect enrollment, but he hopes not.

"Obviously we have to live with it because we can't use P.S. 41," said Malakoff. "It's a problem that the city has, they don't really have enough gyms. Only because of our persistence were we able to come up with something."

According to the School Construction Authority's website, the same work is being done at 11 other schools in Manhattan. Malakoff said he was told by a DOE employee that all weekend activities at P.S. 41 have been suspended. It's unclear whether the same applies at the other 11 schools in Manhattan.

According to documents found on the SCA's website, as of March 2014 the DOE identified 541 of its buildings citywide that could have light fixtures containing PCBs.

It's unclear if the February deadline at P.S. 41 applies to other schools where the work is being done. The DOE did not respond to follow-up requests for comment.