Swish! Cobble Hill School may get new gym • Brooklyn Paper

Swish! Cobble Hill School may get new gym

Principal Kenneth Cuthbert (left) and Athletic Director Mervyn Lewis show off the cozy locker room that is supposed to accommodate 75 students.
The Brooklyn Paper / Stephen Brown

The same non-profit that builds parks in Afghanistan and basketball courts in Kenya is now looking at a Cobble Hill public high school, whose gymnasium is so tiny that the cheerleaders train in the cafeteria, dance classes take place in the hallways, and basketball teams practice on a floor with four massive columns that make a full-court game impossible.

Now, after over 10 years of sub-standard physical education, the Cobble Hill School of American Studies is close to building a top-notch multi-purpose gymnasium — with the help of Gamechangers, a sports fund that typically works in places a lot more impoverished than Brownstone Brooklyn.

Principal Kenneth Cuthbert has line up some initial design support from the group, plus $500,000 from Borough Hall, but there are still some hurdles before the $5-million dream can be realized for the school’s 727 students.

First, the school would need approval for an enclosed gym that would be built atop a concrete play area that is no use during the winter.

Then, the school is hoping that its final plans will be selected for construction by Gamechangers, which is run by Architects for Humanity and Nike Shoes, and would cover half the costs.

Architects for Humanity’s expertise appears necessary: The wretched current gym seems more appropriate for the developing world than a high school on Baltic Street between Smith and Hoyt streets.

Last Friday, teenage basketball players played on a pitiful miniature court that had a concrete wall where the three-point line should be and low-hanging pipes that forced the kids to throw bricks, lest the ball hit the ceiling.

The new environmentally friendly gym would have a full-size basketball court, tennis court and maybe even a track.

Tim Rice, the varsity basketball coach at the school, could barely contain himself when imagining the possibilities of a new facility.

“If we had a better court, we could be contenders for the city championship,” said Rice, adding that his team struggles to get used to full-court games in tournaments.

When Rice’s squad does want a proper practice, they make a long trip to a facility in Brownsville. And the junior varsity team has it even worse: During the season, it is always the “away team” because it has no home court.

But the gym’s potential would not only affect students with hoop dreams.

The new facility would expand the locker room — built for 25 students, but accommodating 140.

The push for a new gym started last year, when a student presented Cuthbert with a petition demanding a volleyball team. Cuthbert liked the idea except for one thing: the ceiling is simply too low for volleyball.

“The students want it. And if they have the desire, that’s half the battle,” Cuthbert said, adding, “If we want children off the streets and involved in the community in a positive way, we need this gym.”

The students aren’t the only ones. If the addition is built, it will be available to members of the community, too. Locals cheered.

“An indoor space is needed here — winter is coming and

our options are limited,” said Alexis Broben, who was playing with her 2-year-old son on the cement playground the other day.

The gym is too small for even one regulation basketball court.
The Brooklyn Paper / Stephen Brown

The gym proposal will be discussed at a Community Board 6 meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 6:30 pm at the Cobble Hill Community Meeting Room [250 Baltic St. between Clinton and Court streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 643-3027].

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