Nike Summer Basketball Court on LES Boxes Out Locals, Residents Say

By Serena Solomon on July 10, 2012 1:10pm 

A temporary basketball court constructed by Nike on Rivington Street has taken public space away from residents and keeps them awake with noise, neighbors claim.
A temporary basketball court constructed by Nike on Rivington Street has taken public space away from residents and keeps them awake with noise, neighbors claim.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

LOWER EAST SIDE — Hoops lovers and residents say they've been boxed out of a temporary basketball court on Rivington Street that was set up by Nike.

The sneaker giant took over the large outdoor space — dubbed "Rivington Court" — in the rear of the three-school complex on Stanton Street between Suffolk and Norfolk streets for a bulk of the summer for its "Battle of the Boroughs" tournament, which features games every Wednesday.

The tournament aims "to ignite a rivalry that is at the core of NYC’s hoop culture and provide a platform to showcase some of the city’s top talent," including local high-schoolers and players from around the world, according to organizers.

However, the company failed to consult with the local community board on the summer series, officials said, leading to issues regarding noise and the loss of playspace for local youth while the infrastructure is in place.  

"He would play basketball a lot up until Nike took it over," said local resident Francis DiDonato, of his 7-year-old son, who recently learned to ride a bike on the sprawling lot and also liked to shoot hoops there. The 52-year-old added that the area is one of the few outdoor spaces in the neighborhood for kids to play.

DiDonato's son, who he noted goes to bed at 8 p.m. each night, is also deprived of sleep on the handful of nights Nike has hosted events in the space since late June.

"Children are being put to sleep 50 feet from their speakers," he explained of the combination of cheering fans, PA announcements and music he claimed can stretch until 11 p.m. on game days.

While using the Nike brand name, the summer-long event that hosts games between "street ball legends from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Harlem" is organized by the company Game Seven Marketing

A hardcourt was constructed on top of the asphalt that is surrounded by bleachers and a short barricade. While larger fence surrounding the entire space remained unlocked on a recent visit, security quickly shooed away those trying to enter the space.

Staff at the space said the Wednesday games will run weekly from now until mid-August.

Neither Nike nor Game Seven Marketing returned requests for comment.

Community Board 3, which covers the space in question, has fielded numerous complaints about noise from residents, district manager Susan Stetzer said.

"This is a residential area, and I understand there can be quality-of-life issues," she said, adding the neighborhood is already swamped with noise complaints stemming from its thriving nightlife scene.

While the Nike events did not require community board approval to proceed, organizers of other local initiatives, like art installations, consult the board for advice and planning help out of courtesy, Stetzer said.

"The people in this community know this community best," she said. "The community board knows the quirks of this neighborhood block by block."

Stetzer has reached out to Nike and will be meeting with representatives from Game Seven Marketing in the coming days to discuss the complaints, she added.

The three schools located in the complex — which includes Lower East Side Preparatory High School, the School for Global Leaders and Marta Valle High School — agreed to loan the space for a fee of $14,880, a Department of Education spokeswoman said. This will go toward "the cost of maintenance and repairs to the school building and improvements to the school yard," spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said.

While she claimed the space is closed to the public both during the school year and throughout the summer, residents said the gates are often open and that they regularly head there for all sorts of recreational activities.

Resident Amanda Nunez, 21, said she had previously played on the courts with her friends after school and during the summer, and DiDonato added the gates are open most weekend and afternoons during the summer.

"We have never been told that there is any policy that children can't play there," he said, noting that he does occasionally find the space locked.

"What I can say with absolute certainty — and I have lived here since 1993 — is that it was open to the neighborhood after schools hours until evening."

Another neighbor, Hannah Alderer, said she has seen people exercising their dogs and kids playing basketball in the newly occupied space. She has lived across the street from the court for 30 years and said she felt ill-advised regarding the Nike events.

"It was this huge mystery," Alderer said. "The city should have notified us."

She explained that the temporary court took about two weeks to erect and that residents in her co-op building could only theorize as to what was going on during that time until one found a "vague" description on a website.

"In some ways this has a bigger impact than a bar serving alcohol," Alderer said, "and they have to go through the community board."

A substitute teacher at the nearby Seward Park Academy on Essex Street also found herself confused about the goings-on there.

"There was definitely an element of privacy, even in the way it was constructed,” said the teacher, Sasha Silverman, noting much of the court had been hidden by a thick black covering surrounding the school's fence.

"If they organized it properly and integrated kids from the neighborhood," she said, "it could be inspirational."

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