Friday, June 01, 2012

Help Save the New York City Parks Boxing Program!

For more than 50 years, the New York City Parks Department has operated a successful amateur boxing program that has served the public, especially low-income residents and youths. Sounds like a good thing, right? Yep, it sounds like a very good thing, if you ask me. But there's a problem. The NYC Parks Department is planning to close the program down at the end of June. This June, as in 29 days from now. 

Why is the Department closing the boxing program? Who knows? Who really understands the working of large city parks and recreation departments? This article quotes one of the program's coaches, Steve Maiorano, explaining the virtues of the boxing program and speculating about the reason for its scheduled closure:
 "It makes no sense to close the program. There was even some talk of Volleyball. What? Where? Half the time, the basement ceiling is too low for the ping pong players. And there are foundation pillars everywhere. Everybody here is respectful and gets along and there's never been a problem. We have a multicultural group of kids that train together, help each other out, make friends, it's been like this for over 50 years."
I haven't had the pleasure of vising the NYC's parks boxing program, but everything Coach Maiorano said resonates deeply with me. First, I know the type of low-ceiling gym he's talking about from my own boxing experiences in the Chicago Park District's (CPD) fine boxing program--a program that has benefited me at many levels. That's not the kind of room where one plays volleyball. Second, I've experienced that kind of respect in the CPD's gyms. When one enters and departs, one greets everyone with a friendly word or two, a fist bump, a handshake, or a thumb's-up; it's that kind of a friendly place. The place is multicultural in the sense that everyone seems to forget all about "multiculturalism" and "cultural differences." The boxers and the coaches are there simply to enjoy the sport, to work hard, to improve themselves, and to learn and practice good sportsmanship. Third, just from reading about the program, I think it would be an awful loss to the city of New York to lose such a successful and thriving sports program.

The article notes that the program costs about $5,000 per year to fund. That's it. You read it correctly: five thousand United States dollars per year. I'm certainly no expert on municipal parks management, but I've been a lawyer and a businessman long enough to know that $5,000 per year is really pocket change as far as major cities' budgets go. Yes, it's an expense that has to be paid, but it's certainly doable. The program has operated for more than half a century so far. If the program is anything like the CPD's program--and since it's in NYC, you know it's probably bigger and at least nominally better--then to shut it down will have a far greater negative impact than keeping it open, an impact that you just can't measure in dollars and cents.

Wherever you live, and especially if you're a New Yorker, I respectfully invite you to write to Councilman Daniel Dromm, who, according to the news article, will communicate with the commissioner of the Parks Department. Here is Mr. Dromm's contact information.

Council Member Daniel Dromm
37-32 75th Street, 1st floor
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Tel: (718) 803-6373
FAX: (718) 803-9832

Please take a few minutes to write to him and ask that he support the boxing program's continuation. With a combination of city funds, private donations, and membership fees, our nation's flagship metropolis can certainly keep the boxing program going. When I was training at Chicago's Hamlin Park, I helped the head coach, one of the assistant coaches (who also trained me), and local businesses to set up a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization to help support the boxing program there. If you want to support a solid youth sport's program, please write Mr. Dromm a short letter today. Many young athletes today and in future generations will benefit from your effort. I've already started on my letter. Thanks!

Hat tip for this news item to my buddy, Mark, an enthusiastic coach and a skillful boxer in his own right. Thanks, Mark!

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