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3 years later, Nassau PAL still awaits funds to fix gym

It's been nearly three years since children played basketball in the gymnasium of the New Hyde Park unit of the Nassau County Police Activity League.

Water rose to 3 feet deep in the gym during heavy rains in the summer of 2007, lifting and buckling the floor. At the time, Town of North Hempstead, Nassau County and state politicians promised grant money to help with repairs. But the money hasn't arrived and those who run the PAL programs are tired of waiting.

Officer Kevin Worth, director of the New Hyde Park PAL unit, said he's grateful officials were sympathetic to repairing the gym. "Everybody honestly cares," he said. "But we're at the point where we need this to get done."

The nondescript building on Denton Avenue remains mired in red tape, the gym floor a swollen mess of broken concrete. Before the flood, hundreds of kids flocked there daily. Worth said the building served 2,000 kids in programs before the flood. Now, with programs held in borrowed space at area schools, that number is down to about 500, he said.

Inside the gym, paper dolls hang from the wall just above the water mark, their colors smeared and faded.

"We don't have the heart to take them down," said Artie Catania, the PAL unit's building commissioner. He estimates it would cost at least $750,000 to repair the gym, and the grants - $100,000 from the county and $200,000 from the state - are needed to help get construction started.

The building is owned by the financially self-sustaining PAL. But without a gym to rent out for events or to adult basketball leagues, there's insufficient cash flow to operate programs for children, Worth said.

Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said the building is the only recreational facility for children in the area. He said the $100,000 county grant is tied up in legal wrangling over wording in an agreement between the town, which owns the land, and the county.

State Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) secured $200,000 from state capital funds, which has been delivered to the town but is "going through the paperwork process," said Johnson's spokesman, Rich Azzopardi.

"We set the wheels in motion and this is the time it takes," town Supervisor Jon Kaiman said. "When government gives money, there's a lot of hurdles to jump through."

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