2007-10-05 / Sports

Rockaway Ropes Seek Opening Bell For New Building

By Elio Velez

The piece by piece dismantling of the Irish Ropes boxing gymnasium early September of 2006 was a huge blow to the denizens who once resided in the small but vital building on Beach 73 Street in Arverne.

A year later, the young hopefuls who seek boxing glory and the adults who gave their time and energy haven't given up on the fight for a new gymnasium in the Rockaways. Those leading the charge for a new gymnasium, which will be called Rockaway Ropes, are seeking funding and support from throughout the community.

Their belief is to give youngsters and the community at-large an outlet to not only seek boxing, but partake in other fitness and recreational programs that can benefit many.

Keith Gaffney, manager of the Channel Drive Service Station on Beach 59 Street, is one member of the Rockaway Ropes committee who says he is seeking to create a viable program from the ashes of the old Irish Ropes.

"We need to get these kids oriented in a positive atmosphere instead of being on the streets," Gaffney said. "The more kids we have doing something, it will makes them more active and less of a chance of being locked up."

Gaffney, a Karate instructor and certified USA boxing coach, says politicians such as City Councilman James Sanders and other donors are willing to help with the push for a new gym.They have scouted potential building sites in Arverne and along the business corridor near Mott Avenue. The potential for a lot of foot traffic at a location in Far Rockaway could be a popular spot for men and women, old and young, to train or workout in.

But an issue right now is the funds to secure a location, and the money needed on a monthly and yearly basis to effectively keep Rockaway Ropes alive.

Kenyatta Harris, a certified USA boxing coach and a Karate instructor knows that a potential Rockaway Ropes gymnasium would need to be housed in a building.

In 2003, Eddie McLoughlin created the gymnasium at 72-34 Burchell Avenue where amateurs and middleweight champion John Duddy trained. In September of 2006, the gymnasium was officially shut down due to zone variance issues.

A year later, Harris, his nephew and fellow amateur boxer Darius Vinson and other people remain devoted to the cause of opening another gymnasium.

"We need a place all-year around," Harris told the Wave. It (Irish Ropes closing) was devastating. A first round knockout….You knew it was coming. It was great opportunity for these kids out here and it disappeared."

Harris trains with local amateurs such as Luis Torres and Gary Styles, who competed in such events as the Golden Gloves. He can work out with up to 10 the former denizens of the Irish Ropes gym.

But anyone who trains with him has to travel to a gymnasium in Long Island or run on the boardwalk. With the winter and cold temperatures approaching, it's not a solution for those locals who would like to remain in the peninsula to train. Organizations such as the Police Athletic League and famous boxing gyms like Gleason's and Starrett City in Brooklyn may be too distant for those would like to train.

Gaffney and Harris say that the Rockaway Ropes will have membership fees that will be affordable to the community. Plans exist for offering such programs as self-defense lessons, aerobic and strength training lessons, dance classes and amateur boxing showcases like the Golden Gloves. The facility could be big or small but whatever takes place inside the building could be a positive. And the fight for a new building won't end till the final round.

"Once we do get open, we'll be open to the public and it's a great workout and people can actually get in shape, young and old, it doesn't matter," Gaffney said. Harris added " Everybody doesn't have a jump shot and everyone doesn't rap. But people can come in and workout."

"We know this place (Rockaway) has talent and we just want to develop more talent."

For those seeking information on how to donate or give advice about potential donations, please call Keith Gaffney at 1-516-322-7836.

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