A new boxing club in the heart of a once-notorious housing complex could change the lives of neighborhood kids — for the better.
Built by a legendary fight trainer — and backed by the likes of Dustin Hoffman — the Flatbush Gardens Boxing Club opened its doors with a gala event last Wednesday afternoon.
“You cannot overstate how important this boxing gym is,” said Teddy Atlas, the Staten Island-born trainer who worked under Hall of Fame trainer Cus D’Amato,“It’s gonna save kids’s lives. It’s gonna get them off the street. It’s gonna give them confidences and direction and discipline that they weren’t getting where they were. It’s going to make them feel good about themselves, and its good for people to feel good about themselves because when they feel good about themselves they do better things.”
The 2,300 square foot, two-ring boxing club-— run jointly by the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation and NYC Cops & Kids — is located at the former Vanderveer Houses, on Foster Avenue and bounded by New York, Brooklyn and Newkirk avenues.
It is outfitted with speed and heavy bags, a locker room and an office, where East Flatbush youths between the ages of 12 and 21 can find something to do besides hang out on the streets.
Clipper Equity, owners of the 2,496-unit, 59-building development, allowed the organization to have the space at a charity rate and Hoffman helped finance the rings and equipment.
Others noted celebrities at the opening included Burt Young, who played Paulie in the Rocky movies, five-time Golden Gloves champ Shemuel Pagan, and professional fighter and Brooklynite Dmitriy Salita.
Retired NYPD Sergeant Pat Russo, who was the Police Athletic League boxing director for 10 years, started the NYC Cops & Kids program after the PAL did away with competitive boxing in January.
“Cops don’t put kids in the streets. Cops take kids off the streets and that’s why we’re keeping this going,” said Russo.
The boxing club will be staffed by two United States boxing certified coaches as well as members of the NYPD and FDNY boxing teams.
The opening also drew the raves of neighborhood locals, many of whom said the area has gotten better in recent years.
“It’s not as bad as people make it,” said Rasheed Nunes, 20, who grew up in the development. “This will keep people out of the streets.”
While the celebrities and top NYPD brass were on hand at the opening, 67th Precinct beat cop Marcin Drozniak viewedthe affair with the watchful eye of someone who knows every inch of the neighborhood.
“This is my sector and this is absolutely 100 percent good,” said Drozniak. “You’ve got to start with the kids and give them something to do so they don’t hang out and get into trouble.”
“This has been a rough neighborhood in the past. It’s gotten a lot better, but we’ll see what happens after everybody leaves and the smoke clears.”