The city has shuttered a popular Park Slope sports center, citing safety problems, forcing neighborhood children to forgo weekly tumbling lessons, and sending families scrambling to make last-minute arrangements for their children’s birthday parties.
The Fire Department closed Powerplay on Jan. 11 after an inspection revealed that the center did not have a sprinkler system or a permit to operate as a day-care center.
And therein laid the problem: in addition to serving its usual clientele of karate-kids and aspiring gymnasts, the Third Avenue and Seventh Street location was serving as the temporary headquarters for the Park Slope Child Care Collective, whose own offices were damaged in an October fire.
“No good deed goes unpunished,” complained Fritz Jean, Powerplay’s co-owner.
Of course, it wasn’t just Jean and the day care center that were inconvenienced by the gym’s abrupt closure.
Clark Vines’s sixth birthday party had to be moved to the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture (which doesn’t exactly scream out fun).
“It was kind of a shock,” said Mary Vines, Clark’s mother, who found out about the gym’s closure last Friday. “The party was set for the next day.”
After panicking for an hour, Vines ended up renting a bouncy castle from Aardvark Amusements, and securing the Society space.
“It all worked out, and everyone had a blast,” she added.
Clark Vines was not the only birthday boy left hanging.
The mother of 3-year-old Sidney Rabeck also did some emergency management when she learned of the gym’s closure, just a week before what would have been her son’s gymnastics party.
“I really, really scrambled,” said Evie Rabeck, who made her Powerplay reservations a year in advance.
Even worse, she only found out about the closure from reading the rumor-filled posts on the well-trafficked Park Slope Parents Web site.
Such posts included breathless claims that fumes from the auto body shop that shares Powerplay’s building sent kids spilling out onto the sidewalk and later brought the prying eyes of the FDNY.
Jean claimed the FDNY inspection was, in fact, “routine.”
Rabeck managed to book a spot at Honeydew Drop Childcare Services, but “other parents out there weren’t as fortunate.”
Rabeck said she’ll return to Powerplay — should it reopen as promised next month.
“I think it’s been a great resource for the neighborhood,” she said. “It’s not perfect. No place is.”
For his part, Jean can’t wait for his gym to reopen either. On Wednesday, he was busy scheduling an FDNY re-inspection so he can get back in good standing.
“We will do everything to make this right for our clients,” said Jean. “We will be very, very flexible, and we’ll offer refunds.”