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Despite Noise Complaints From Locals, Basketball League Wants Sound Permit

By Gustavo Solis | August 20, 2015 10:58am
 The youth summer basketball league has been in East Harlem for 14 years. 
The League
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EAST HARLEM — The leader of a summer youth basketball league in Marcus Garvey Park is going one-on-one with neighbors, slamming them for making noise complaints and undermining the good they do.

Organizer Craig Yancey, who runs "The League," as it is called, has taken to using a bullhorn during games even though the Parks Department denied a permit to use amplified sound. On Tuesday he invited local media and had some players wear bandanas over their faces to show that they were being “gagged under a Parks Department ruling.”

Despite the restriction, the local precinct has received ten complaints about the “irritating man on the speaker,” since the summer league began in late June.

Most of the complaints mention amplified sound and the announcer.

“The basketball game is not the issue, nor is the crowd,” stated one complaint from Aug. 5 at 9:07 p.m. “The announcer is ongoing and amplified and very disruptive.”

Judith Febbraro, who has lived in a co-op across the street for 13 years, said she can hear the games being called from her apartment more than 350 feet away from the park. She supports what the organizers are trying to do for the kids during the summer time but does not support the noise.

“We are not against basketball,” she said. “We just want them to be good neighbors.”

While they have a permit to use the courts until 9 p.m., they are not allowed to use amplified sound, according to the Parks Department.

“Man is amplifying his voice at basketball tournament, yelling oh oh oh oh oh other noise,” read the most recent complaint submitted Aug. 12 at 9:06 p.m.

The Parks Department told Yancey that he needed to apply for a special events permit if he wanted amplified sound, a spokesman said.

Yancey said he did not apply for a special events permit because by the time he was told to do so, the league only had four days left. He also said people complaining about the noise should have gone to him instead of the police.

He believes he is being singled out because people don’t like basketball, claiming people are unfairly complaining against the league while ignoring other events at the park.

“They aren’t complaining about noise coming from the amphitheater," he said. "It’s the same park and the amphitheater is louder. Why are they complaining against us and not them?”

In 2014, police received 19 noise complaints about the basketball league and temporarily removed their sound permit.

Yancey, who was granted a permit last year after DNAinfo New York wrote about his struggle, said he started the league so that local kids could have something to do during the summer. For many of them, it's a way to stay out of trouble, he said.

“They aren’t doing it to me, you are doing it to 320 kids in this community. That’s why it’s an outrage,” Yancey said.

Connie Lee, the president of the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, said she's heard the bullhorn a few times as she walked by this summer and assumed they had a sound permit.

Despite the noise, she said she would like to see the league get the sound permit because of the good work they do with local youth.

“Last year I had a bunch of complaints, this year I have not received any,” she said. “I would like to see them get their permit because the program they have is very good for the community."

The Commanding Officer of the 25th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Thomas Harnisch, wants to set up a meeting between Yancey, the Parks Department, the local community board and residents who have complained about the noise next Spring before the tournament. 

That way everyone can be on the same page and find out how to host the tournament without disrupting neighbors, he said. 

“We love what they are doing with the kids out there but they have to comply with the rules and be considerate of their neighbors,” he said.