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Plan for Basketball Cage on UWS School Roof Rejected by Community Board

By Emily Frost | December 2, 2016 4:43pm | Updated on December 5, 2016 8:39am
 The school wants to add a playspace on top of its room, but surrounding residents oppose the addition.
The school wants to add a playspace on top of its room, but surrounding residents oppose the addition.
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DNAinfo/Emily Frost

UPPER WEST SIDE — A plan to build a 20-foot basketball cage on the roof of a private school got rejected by locals worried that the hoopsters would cause a racket and that the structure would block neighbors' views. 

Rodeph Sholom School, a Reform Jewish day school on West 79th Street serving nursery-age through eight-grade students, wants to build a separate play space for middle schoolers on its rooftop for recess. 

The middle schoolers expressly requested that the new play space have basketball hoops, said Danny Karpf, the incoming headmaster, at a meeting Thursday. 

But residents whose apartments look out on the school's roof, which occupies a townhouse between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, said their access to light and views of the sky would be gobbled up by the new cage.

Under city zoning regulations, any rooftop play space that involves ball play — whether a basketball, soccer ball or even a Frisbee — must have a cage. 

The thwack of the basketball against the the backboard, ground and metal fencing as groups of kids play pickup games would disrupt babies' naps and the ability to work from home, residents said. And approving the new play space would be putting transient students above the needs of longtime residents, they added. 

Instead, residents want the school to abandon the cage altogether and create a rooftop garden, despite the fact that the school already has an outdoor garden.

Rodeph Sholom School previously met with residents and heard their concerns, deciding to lower the proposed height of the cage from 25 feet to 20 feet, Karpf said. The lower height still leaves room for basketball, he said. 

But the reduction doesn't go far enough, board members said. 

The school's goal of creating more space for outdoor play for its students could be achieved without the hoops, said board member Peter Samton.

"Basketball is sort of the extreme, and I think that’s pushing the envelope, so to speak," he said. 

Outdoor playtime doesn't have to include the sport, added board member Louisa Craddock.

"I remember recess, it was wonderful," she said. "It did not have basketball courts. I thought it was basically free play."

The school should lower the height of the cage to 12 feet tall, said the board's preservation committee, which disapproved the plans in their current iteration Thursday. 

The school declined to comment on whether it would heed the board's recommendation and lower the height of the cage or consider an alternative for the roof.

The school falls within the Central Park West Historic District, so the Landmarks Preservation Commission has the ultimate say over whether the play roof is approved. The LPC takes into account the community board's decision, which is solely advisory. 

A hearing date for the play roof has not yet been set by LPC.

"...Our concerns are broader than the historic appearance of our bricks and mortar. They include quality of life and the strength of our communities," said David Schatsky, a resident who lives next to the school, in an email Friday. 

"Our neighbors need to stay engaged and make our case directly to the LPC."