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Shelly Silver Vows to Fight Plan to Close Stuyvesant HS Community Center

By Irene Plagianos | November 11, 2013 1:53pm | Updated on November 11, 2013 4:13pm
 The new $55 million Asphalt Green fitness center does not take the place of the affordable Stuyvesant Community Center, slated to close in December, residents say.
The new $55 million Asphalt Green fitness center does not take the place of the affordable Stuyvesant Community Center, slated to close in December, residents say.
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DNAinfo/Irene Plagianos

BATTERY PARK CITY — The Battery Park City Authority is shuttering a longtime community center in Stuyvesant High School — but residents and politicians are fighting the move, saying the BPCA doesn't have the right to close it down.

The authority plans to shut the center Dec. 20 because it's losing $200,000 per year and has only about 300 members, Battery Park City Authority officials said.

However, residents and elected officials — including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — say the Battery Park City Authority cannot close the Stuyvesant High School center, because the authority has an "ironclad" agreement with the city to keep it open under a deal that let the city open the high school in the first place.

Silver's office has showed the original agreement and subsequent lawsuit to four lawyers, and they believe that the BPCA must continue operating the facility and is not allowed to close it, a spokesman for Silver said.

A BPCA spokesman said the authority "disagrees" with that interpretation but declined to elaborate. They said they're putting millions of dollars into the neighboring Asphalt Green community center, which opened two blocks away in June and charges more than four times as much for an adult membership as the Stuyvesant center.

In exchange for moving Stuyvesant High School into Battery Park City, the city agreed in 1987 to allow the community to use the facilities after school, on weekends and over the summer, according to the agreement signed at the time. The community center was supposed to be funded and run by the BPCA.

In fact, the BPCA was so adamant that the center be allowed to be public, they sued the Department of Education — and won — in 1993, because the department wasn’t letting them use the space for the agreed-upon community time in the school, documents show.

Dozens of angry residents packed into a recent Community Board 1 meeting, saying they don't want to lose the affordable Stuyvesant gym, which they say is the only one of its kind in the area.

Residents said they appreciated having an inexpensive gym option, with yearly memberships costing $325 per year for an adult and an additional $70 per year for each child under 12.

Annual membership prices at Asphalt Green, which has a brand-new $55 million facility subsidized by the BPCA on North End Avenue, range from $1,548 for singles to $3,228 for families, which includes two children and two adults.

"We understand that this new and beautiful athletic facility where we are does exist, and sure, some of my friends and their families do have a membership and I often see them and their parents on the treadmills or around the basketball court," said Robbie Martino, 17, a Millennium High School student, at a CB1 meeting Nov. 5.

"But [Asphalt Green], as wonderful as it is, is not for everyone. It isn’t for many families and many teenagers who can’t afford it. Please find a way to keep the Stuyvesant High School Community Center open for this group.”

The BPCA said they are trying to work with Silver's office to find a new operator for the Stuyvesant community center, but the center is still slated to close in December.