WEST HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The future of a popular youth sports facility on Long Island is on the line.
It was shuttered back in March after it was unable to reopen due to New York state’s COVID-19 regulations.
And on Wednesday, an ultimatum was issued by the arena’s landlord, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
The sign on the door posted five months ago was hopeful: “We will reopen when the time is right.”
But that time has still not come.
Island Garden in West Hempstead is still closed.
The basketball facility is categorized in New York as a gymnasium, and basketball is a high-risk sport. As a result, the clock is running out for it to survive.
“I have to save this. This means too much, especially now,” Island Garden CEO Jim Fox said.
What’s at stake?
“Kids lives. I’m not blaming anyone. But it’s devastating. We need this. We need the role models of the coaches,” Fox said.
Fox has shepherded nearly three decades of youth — 225,000 people a year — through a facility that has hosted NBA teams and hundreds who have gone on to college scholarships.
Families are asking the state to re-designate the facility as a youth program, instead of a gym.
“Tell us what we need to do to open up and how we go forward. What guides? What structure?” Elmont father Ron Plummer said.
“Basketball, sports in general, is a good gateway to make it to college. Not having basketball could decrease that change,” player Tafari Plummer said.
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And now that it has had zero income for five months, Island Garden has received a demand for missed rent from its landlord — more than $200,000 — or face eviction.
“The possibility that they’ll be evicted and just the symbolic picture of it being closed would be devastating for the kids,” parent Fred Vasselman said.
Parents who have taken their kids to basketball tournaments out of state say it can be done safely.
“I know people are nervous, but I think the most important thing would be to give people the choice to play,” Vasselman said.
“We have a whole protocol. We can bring people in one door and out the other. We will separate them,” Fox said. “I refuse to give up the fight. I’ll find a way.”
With nearly $40,000 in rent due each month, they’re hoping for a half-court miracle shot to save Island Garden.
A.C.C. Real Estate Services, which represents the property owner, declined comment on the potential eviction.
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