After months of delay, a new roof is three weeks away from completion at the Kendrick Recreation Center on Ridge Avenue, but that is just the start of a series of major upgrades. Inside and out, the facility is getting a makeover.
Now that the leaks are taken care of, Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. has pledged about $150,000 for more renovations. Dilapidated tennis courts that now often serve as an unofficial dog run will be replaced with two new—and level—basketball courts with bleachers. There will be a parking lot, two regraded baseball fields, and more green space with additional trees.
Joshua Cohen, special assistant for Curtis Jones, formally unveiled the plan last night at a Center Advisory Council meeting saying it was “another stage in the Councilman’s commitment to Kendrick.”
Work on the grounds is scheduled to start in August and should take a couple of months to complete, according to Cohen.
Kendrick Rec Center Leader Bill Malizia was effusive in his praise of Jones. “The roof was a major deal, but this is a major, major, major deal,” he said.
Malizia thanked Jones for sending a representative to every meeting held about improvements to the center since he pledged his help at a rally held in October 2011 at which neighborhood residents complained about the abysmal state of the facility. “He has kept his word,” said Malizia.
“This will be great for the community,” added Advisory Council President Brian Morris.
The interior of the building is changing too. On June 1, boxing will move downstairs freeing up space upstairs for drama and dance. A summer theater camp starting June 24 already has 11 kids signed up without the aid of advertising and is expected to reach its limit of 22. Trying to build on this show of enthusiasm, the center is looking for an instructor to keep drama going year round.
The center also has a new dojo, a room for martial arts, and now boasts three martial arts programs–shotokan karate, tang soo do karate, and tai chi—as well as yoga. “You can punch people, hit people, and then calm down,” laughed Malizia.
The center will host a citywide all around gymnastics championship competition on April 20. The Kendrick gymnastics program, which produced five statewide champs and 24 winners in tumbling at a citywide meet, are expected to be favorites on home turf.
The planned improvements will keep people from parking haphazardly wherever they find space on the center’s grounds. It will keep balls from flying into people and cars. It will keep basketball players from worrying about whether they are driving the ball uphill or downhill to the net. The changes are intended to beautify the space and thus draw more people to use it. One problem the changes will not necessarily fix, however, is a rash of hooliganism that has been occurring in and around the center.
Need for increased police presence
According to Malizia five or six youths, about 15-20 years old, and often with friends in tow have been a nuisance at the center. They loiter, drink alcohol, do drugs, and intimidate people. They have even threatened center staff.
Morris worries that they are connected to a drug scene on Ridge Avenue. Dianna Cute who attended the meeting as a representative of the boxing program said she had seen them smoking pot and “laughing about being locked up.” Others spoke of pills, graffiti, and even a full-on midnight keg party.
Police presence has been minimal around the center since summer, according to Malizia, who would like to see it increase. He hopes that visible and regular police attention will scare the troublemakers.
Cohen said the Councilman’s office would look into it. Gordon Fabrizio of the Pechin Monastary Town Watch said that he would urge his people to patrol there.
In the meantime, Malizia, who has a background working in correctional facilities, gives them a five minute warning and asks them to leave, but he isn’t always there and the boys often “show no fear” as they block the front door smoking.
Despite improvements to the center, the youth delinquency issues show, that Kendrick always needs help. A spring clean up will be held on April 13 and Malizia expects to fill over 100 trash bags with 30-50 volunteers and spruce up the place for an open house on May 18.