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New Hyde Park PAL's gym under renovation

Ground breaking has begun for new renovations to

Ground breaking has begun for new renovations to New Hyde Park's PAL after being in the works for several years. (Nov. 28 2012) Credit: Johnny Milano

It's been five years since a full court basketball game was played in the clubhouse.

Two storms -- one in 2005; another, more prolonged in 2007 -- disrupted play at the New Hyde Park Police Athletic League's complex. The floor buckled, and for almost three years, the facility on Denton Avenue shut its doors and managed camp and classes elsewhere in the community.

For a while, the gym was unusable. A midcourt partition was eventually installed, and in 2010 the complex reopened, but the facility saw a steep decline in membership.

Recently, the athletic league acquired enough money for a restoration project, which would add a sump and, beneath the court, a sewage system. But as directors look to start renovations as a comeback of sorts for the 3-decade-old facility, the task of bringing back old members looms large.

"It's going to be challenging to gain that population back that we've missed out on for the last five years," said Nick Caras, president of the New Hyde Park Police Athletic League. "They're established somewhere else."

In July 2007, when the second round of thunderstorms hit and "cars were underwater," Caras recalled, the camp pondered closing altogether for the summer. But it moved its programs to the non-air-conditioned Manor Oaks School.

The PAL did not decide until May of the following year to hold camp at New Hyde Park Baptist Church, which has air-conditioning. But by then, Caras said, parents had made plans elsewhere. Membership, at a peak of nearly 500 elementary, middle and junior high school students in 2007, dropped to 150.

Plans to renovate the facility were scuttled over the years. A $200,000 grant from the state fell through, the town said, in 2010.

Last year, the athletic league borrowed $250,000 from the county, and on Wednesday, engineers broke ground on the court, excavating a triangular portion of concrete slab midcourt that had broken through the tile. They plan to replace the entire floor. According to the PAL website, officials hope to reopen in February.

Jon Kaiman, North Hempstead town supervisor, said losing the grant money two years ago "threw us into a spiral downward."

The new drainage system, financed in part by the loan, will keep water from flowing under the floor.

"It's just a cleanup, and we're back in business," said Paul DiMaria, town public works commissioner.

Kevin Worth, a Nassau County police officer and director of the New Hyde Park PAL, said he was gratified to see the restoration begin. As for bringing back the old members, "We've built a great name," he said. "I think once we're fully built, we'll get back to where we were prior to it."

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