Brooklyn basketball group that produced borough’s NBA players kicked out of gym

Stephon Marbury, an alum of the Brooklyn Flames. (AP)
Stephon Marbury, an alum of the Brooklyn Flames. (AP)

The Brooklyn Flames, a longtime Brooklyn youth basketball league that has produced NBA players Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair, and Lance Stephenson, is in the midst of a dispute with the school that hosts their games and practices.

Gerard Papa, who runs the league, says his group of 90 young athletes was kicked out of John Dewey High School’s gym last Saturday morning. Though the principal told Papa that a scheduling conflict was to blame, Papa told the New York Daily News that there was enough space to accommodate everyone:

“It’s our home,” Papa said. “What am I supposed to do with these kids for the balance of the season?”

Elvin told the group the space was needed for use by the Public Schools Athletic League.

“We will continue to juggle our Dewey schedule when possible to accommodate the Flames, but right now there just is not enough gym space to handle all of our needs at the same time,” Elvin told Papa in a Dec. 5 email.

Papa said the auxiliary gym was actually empty Saturday morning.

“They practice in the big gym,” he said of the school’s teams.

The school is also hosting a robotics competition on Dec. 20, which will use most of the first floor, including the two basketball courts and the cafeteria, Elvin said.

The school is required to give priority to its own programs and activities, said Department of Education spokeswoman Yuridia Pena, adding that the city would work to accommodate the basketball program as best it could.

Papa said he should have been warned about the scheduling conflict before the season started in November, rather than finding out on the day itself.

“At the beginning of the school year, she should have called us in — and maybe we could have figured something out,” he said. “She let me send out thousands of cards announcing registration.”

Papa also told the Daily News he has no plans to find a new home for the league, which began in 1974 and has played in the gym since the league’s inception. “If your wife doesn’t let you in the house tonight you can go to a hotel, but it’s not your house,” Papa said. “They don’t legitimately need the space.”

The report adds that all sides are working towards an agreement. Given how long the Flames has impacted Brooklyn youth in a positive way, hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.

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