Parents at a historic Park Slope elementary school that’s too small to have its own gym are fuming that the city will no longer rent out a recreation area for the kids across the street.
The city ended its 20-year relationship with a youth program across the street from PS 39 on Sixth Avenue this month after the Camp Friendship Youth Program raised the yearly for the recreation space from $48,000 to $67,850 for the 2010-11 school year.
The Department of Education said this week that the school will not lose its gym program. If negotiations with Camp Friendship fall through, PS 39 students will be bused to fancier digs: the newly renovated Park Slope Armory more than 10 blocks away.
Parents were not pleased to hear that their kids will spend a significant portion of their gym periods just getting to the armory, which is on Eighth Avenue and 15th Street. “It’s unrealistic,” said Bennett Kleinberg, a PS 39 parent. “Kids can’t get on buses, change, and have gym in a 40-minute time frame. Try doing that with 25 7-year-olds — it’ll take forever.” The bottom line, he added, “We’re being screwed because we are a small school in an old building.”
Old and landmarked. Because of historic preservation rules, the mid-19th-century school, which is between Seventh and Eighth streets, has not been allowed to expand and add a gym, auditorium or even a cafeteria. So for two decades, Camp Friendship has been more than a gym — it holds the school’s graduations, arts fairs and musical performances.
And its greatest asset is its proximity.
Parents aren’t blaming Camp Friendship for raising the rent, but are livid at the city for not paying it. Then again, the city intransigence may end the standoff. “We are really trying to work with the Department of Education,” said Camp Friendship Executive Director Antonio Berger, who said he’d be happy if he and the city can find the right price.
But he’s playing hardball. If the city and Berger can’t make a deal, he said he would sign a lease with one of several area private schools that are interested.
“My hands would be tied to sign one of the private schools,” Berger said.