Gym-nastic! PS 39 gets its recreation space back

Parents at PS 39, a historic school on Sixth Avenue that’s too small to have its own gym, raised a ruckus last week when the city refused to renew a lease on a neighboring gym space because the operators of the space, the Camp Friendship Youth Program, sought to raise the rent from $48,000 to $67,850.

But after parents revolted, the city negotiated a bettter deal, accepting the original rent for the first two years plus slight increases in the remaining three.

The school’s PTA agreed to underwrite some of the gym’s utilities, but parents were pleased with the deal. “I’m glad that the city saw the need for this facility,” said Bennett Kleinberg, a PS 39 parent. “The Camp Friendship gym is so important for PS 39.”

Because of historic preservation rules, the mid-19th-century school between Seventh and Eighth Streets has not been allowed to expand or add a gym. Without the Camp Friendship space, which is across the street from the school, students would have had to be bussed to the Park Slope Armory more than 10 blocks away. Parents and teachers had ridiculed that idea, and organized petition- and letter-writing drives to demand the lease renewal. “Many PS 39 parents contacted my office and it’s fantastic that they were making their voices heard,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), who helped mediate the negotiations. “And Camp Friendship showed a lot of flexibility, so it’s a win-win for everyone.” Camp Friendship agreed.

“Everything turned out to be successful because the school gets the same full-day usage it has had for the past 20 years,” said Executive Director Antonio Berger. “We have an excellent relationship with PS 39 and want to keep it that way.”

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