WILLOWBROOK — A decade-old Staten Island swim club for kids was left high and dry after the College of Staten Island refused to renew its rental time for practices in the college pool this fall.
The Blue Arrow Swim Club — which teaches approximately 110 swimmers between the ages of 6 and 19 — has rented four of the eight lanes at the CSI's pool for the past 10 years.
But organizers were told in February the school would not renew the contract for the 2013 season after the current lease with the school ends on July 22 — leaving the longstanding club homeless.
“They’re eliminating a whole community program,” said Robert Prignoli, the lawyer representing Blue Arrow. “It’s not like the kids can go and join another program, it just doesn’t exist.”
The club, which competes in the USA Swimming national program, would be forced to shut down if they lose the pool because there’s no room for their daily practice schedule at other locations in the borough, said Stephen Goodwin, president of the club.
They added that the college is required to let local nonprofits use their facilities, and that they plan to sue if they have no other recourse.
“If we can’t get a contract, we will have no choice but to take them to court,” Prignoli said.
Goodwin said college officials told him they needed the lanes back because they recently added new dormitories that are opening up in the fall, and officials expect that the new influx of students will mean a higher demand for pool lanes.
CSI officials told DNAinfo.com New York that they did not sign a new lease with Blue Arrow because of “current and projected” demand of use from students of the swimming pool.
“The College of Staten Island is undertaking a review of all programs and activities relating to athletics and recreation,” the college said in a statement.
“This review is based upon current and projected demands on campus resources by the college and the general Staten Island community. University policy provides that ‘First priority for use of a college's facilities shall be given to college departments, divisions, programs and offices for curricular, administrative and other college purposes.’”
However, Goodwin said the current student body barely uses the pool during the team’s daily practices from 5 to 7 p.m., and added that the new dorms will only add an additional 454 students.
“If anybody’s going to swim, they’re going to do it during the day, they’re not doing it at night,” he said. “There’s nobody in the pool.”
He added that the club has had trouble with the college since about three years ago, when the college tried to raise the rent from $15,000 to $150,000.
After going back and forth, the College of Staten Island reduced the proposed rent hike to $45,000, which Blue Arrow continued to pay up until last year, Goodwin said.
"In this economy, who's going to turn down $45,000?" Goodwin asked.
He said the college's decision to shut them out deprives kids of a much-needed positive activity.
“It keeps the kids in good physical condition,” he said. “It keeps them out of trouble. They’re not out on the street corner.”
Goodwin said that for many upcoming high school seniors in the club, losing the swim club a year before graduation would be devastating because there’s limited spots in other programs.
“If you’re a junior or senior in high school, now this college is cutting your sport out from under your legs,” Goodwin said. “There’s no place else to go.”