A gym to call their own


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City announces plans to build new gymnasium space for Eleanor Roosevelt H.S.


Photos



  • Students, elected leaders and city officials gathered at Eleanor Roosevelt High School May 23 to celebrate the announcement of plans to build a new gym for the school. Photo: Office of Ben Kallos




  • A rendering of the gymnasium to be built on the sixth floor of a new pre-k facility near Eleanor Roosevelt High School. Image: NYC SCA



“We have some very talented athletes at this school, so I’m very excited and thankful that they’ll have the opportunity to have their own gym.”

Sadie Wenger, senior member of ERHS girls basketball team



By Michael Garofalo

A longstanding wish of students at Eleanor Roosevelt High School will soon be fulfilled.

City officials have announced plans to build a new gymnasium for the East 76th Street high school, which has long held physical education classes in an undersized dance studio and relied on neighboring schools’ gym spaces to host its sports teams.

The new gym will be located just down the street from ERHS, on the sixth floor of a new pre-kindergarten facility at 355 East 76th St. slated open in September. Work on the $6.5 million gymnasium project will begin in December of this year and is expected to be completed by 2021.

The May 23 announcement of the project marked the culmination of a multi-year campaign for new gym space that brought together students, parents, staff and elected leaders.

Council Member Ben Kallos credited two high schoolers for bringing the issue to the fore last year at a town hall meeting he hosted with Mayor Bill de Blasio at East Side Middle School on East 91st Street — one of only two public school gyms in the district, Kallos noted, that could accommodate such a gathering. ERHS students Amanda Cavaliero and Sophie Scherer appealed directly to the mayor at the event to request funding for the gym project.

Cavaliero, who graduated last year, recalled the challenges of waking up on school days for volleyball and basketball practices that started at 6:30 a.m. — the only time space was available at other schools’ gyms. “It was really difficult to deal with,” she said. “Me and my friend Sophie just decided that we needed to go and tell someone else how we were feeling.”

Students later helped organize a petition to build a new gym for ERHS that was hosted on Kallos’s website and received over 5,000 signatures.

“It’s actually the most signatures we’ve ever gotten on a petition, and I think that is something that caught the attention of the School Construction Authority,” Kallos said.

Lorraine Grillo, the president and CEO of the School Construction Authority, lauded Cavaliero’s efforts. “Amanda brought this up to me at a town hall meeting, but she didn’t stop there. I received more emails from Amanda advocating for this, and I thought if I don’t do something I’ll never ever be left alone,” Grillo joked.

“The students at Eleanor Roosevelt deserve this, the community deserves this, so we’re really, really excited,” Grillo added.

The gym funding is part of the de Blasio administration’s $385 million Universal Physical Education Initiative to provide designated phys ed space for the roughly 200 city schools that do not currently have gymnasiums.

Sadie Wenger, a senior member of the ERHS girls basketball team that went undefeated during the regular season last year, said she’s happy that future student-athletes won’t have to deal with the scheduling difficulties that arise from using other schools’ gyms.

“We have some very talented athletes at this school, so I’m very excited and thankful that they’ll have the opportunity to have their own gym,” Wenger said.






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