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'Obnoxious' LES Kickball League Shortens Games After Complaints

 A Lower East Side adult kickball league will shorten games by one hour after residents complained.
Kickball League
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LOWER EAST SIDE — A noisy adult kickball league that a Lower East Side resident said blights the neighborhood more than drug and gang problems of the past will cut short its games.

Organizers of the games, played in school yards every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, agreed to stop by 9 p.m. — at least an hour earlier than currently. Saturday afternoon games will be scrapped.

The promise came after residents signed a petition to get the league booted out of the schools for its loud generators, bright lights and screaming participants.

"Imagine trying to put your children to sleep when there are people screaming out your window," said Francis Didonato, a Lower East Side resident of more than 30 years.

"The other side of the FDR would be a perfect place for this, not 50 feet from living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms."

He spoke at a Community Board 3 meeting where the board's members requested the city's Department of Education immediately review outdoor permits that have been given to non-school organizations — like the Notwork Network Society that runs the kickball league — for events that end after 8 p.m.

"There is no process for community input," said Susan Stetzer, general manager of CB3. "There is no process to look at the impact on the surrounding community."

"Night sport games tend to be very disruptive," she said, adding that CB3 has received numerous complaints from different residents both this year and last year over kickball leagues.

Didonato, who lives near Marta Valle High School on Stanton and Suffolk streets where one of the leagues is played, said he represented many other residents surrounding the court.

"This has been a vibrant place where children have played during after-school hours," said Didonato. "We feel very strongly when this is taken away for private use."

He also referred to a Nike summer event last year, "Rivington Court," where a basketball competition occupied the outdoor space at Marta Valle the entire summer, drawing more noise and quality of life complaints from neighbors.

Phil Penman represented his wife Karen Gehres at the meeting. She started the petition about a month ago, and said it was easier dealing with the drug problems that plagued the area in the '80s. She lives close to another school yard at Delancey and Attorney streets.

Since DNAinfo New York first wrote about the story on Wednesday, she has received threatening emails and phone calls, Penman said.

"Last year, the police would have to come around with a megaphone telling them [the Kickballers] to leave the court," he said of the late-night games, adding that police have also had to come this year since the league restarted in the spring.

Notwork Network Society pays the schools for use of the courts, but at the CB3 meeting its founder Amy Short said she did not know the exact cost.

The organization did donate a $6,000 Smart Board to another school in a gesture of gratitude for using the school grounds, according to Short.

"I like to think of it as a friend factory," said Short, of what Notwork Network Society does. "The mission is to eradicate loneliness."

She described her clientele as young professionals in their 20s and 30s who are new to the city.

Short said the nonprofit formed earlier this year and partners with NYC Social, a for-profit company, to run the leagues.