Downtown Brooklyn parents were recently informed that a neighborhood staple, the Navy Yard Madison Boys & Girls Club, has filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 and will be closing at the end of the school year.
After it was originally scheduled to close on May 12, recent announcements are that the clubhouse site will stay open through June 27 and close at the end of the school year. After that, nearly 100 area children will be left without needed extracurricular services. Teenagers will no longer be able to take part in club programs and local families who have used the Navy Yard Clubhouse for generations (many parents say they attended the clubhouse when they were young and now have children in attendance there) will have to search elsewhere for services.
The Navy Yard Clubhouse is one of the six Madison Square Boys & Girls Club Foundation clubhouses throughout the city: there is one in Manhattan, two in the Bronx, and three clubhouses are in Brooklyn. These are afterschool spaces where 6- through 18-year-olds can find daily enrichment programming at no cost to their families.
Many of the kids attending the Navy Yard Clubhouse come from the nearby NYCHA Farragut Houses. The clubhouse is directly across the street from Farragut, which made it a convenient location for parents to pick up their children.
The imminent closure of the clubhouse and sale of its building are making families desperate to find some way to either put the clubhouse building into the hands of a different nonprofit or have the city step in to save it for the community.
“This is a safe haven,” one parent declared. “I’ve got six kids; all six of my kids went here.”
Another parent, David Banks, reached out to the Amsterdam News to raise the alarm about the situation. Banks, a DJ and house music producer who goes by the stage name DJ Disciple, said his daughter attended the clubhouse for years. He explained that Farragut parents are trying to get the word out about the clubhouse’s closing. They’ve started using #savenavyyardbandgclub on social media so people know about the situation.
The parents want elected officials “to let us have a seat at the table,” Banks said. “The residents don’t want the building that has been an institution for many of us to become private. With the city’s help, it won’t have to be.”
This all comes on the heels of hundreds of child sexual abuse lawsuits having been filed against a former Navy Yard Clubhouse volunteer.
Dr. Reginald Archibald, now deceased, was a former volunteer at the clubhouse and is recorded to have been a child sexual abuser. A venerated pediatric endocrinologist at Rockefeller University Hospital, Archibald apparently was also abusing kids he volunteered to work with at the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club’s former lower Manhattan clubhouse on 29th Street. Archibald volunteered with that clubhouse from 1941 through 1985 and served on the Madison Foundation’s board from 1964 to 1985.
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Some 141 complaints were filed against Archibald and the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club under the New York State Child Victims Act (CVA); claims were that he abused children beginning in 1948 and continued doing so until 1984.
So far, the Foundation claims to have already spent $22 million in litigation on the Archibald case. It filed for Chapter 11 restructuring in June of 2022 to save itself. To finally settle their claims, the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club Foundation found that they could get the most money from selling their Navy Yard Clubhouse. The building could be sold for $15 to $25 million.
In an April 24 statement, the Foundation said, “The agreement provides for monetary contributions to be made to a trust for the benefit of the abuse survivors, which respectfully and equitably addresses their claims.
“Unfortunately, in order to provide the funds required for the agreement, we had to make the very difficult decision to close and sell our Navy Yard Clubhouse in Brooklyn.”
Madison Foundation’s Executive Director Tim McChristian said, “We are deeply saddened by the need to close the Navy Yard Clubhouse in Brooklyn—a decision which was not made lightly. We will work with our members’ parents to identify alternative local afterschool programs for their consideration as appropriate. We also are planning to place the majority of our existing Navy Yard Clubhouse staff into similar positions at our other Clubhouses located in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan. We are immensely grateful for the Club’s staff, volunteers, and community for everything they did to make the Navy Yard Clubhouse in Brooklyn a special and welcoming place for our members.”
Some parents are hoping that a celebrity might be able to step in and help save the Navy Yard Clubhouse. Former professional basketball player Shaquille O’Neal is a known major supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America through his nonprofit Shaq Foundation. In the past, O’Neal has donated millions of dollars to support Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the nation. He has said it’s his way of giving back, since the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in Newark did so much to provide him with opportunities when he was young.
Because both the Navy Yard Clubhouse and Farragut Houses fall within Councilmember Crystal Hudson’s District 35, Hudson told the AmNews she has been speaking with local stakeholders about options to help local families who may have no other safe space for their children.
The call from some parents to have the city take over the property is even being weighed. “There are many possibilities––how likely of a possibility that might be, I couldn’t really say,” Hudson said, but there is a search on for an organization or for the city, through various city agencies, to take over the spot. “We’re exploring all options, which might include working with a nonprofit organization to acquire the property or exploring other options in terms of making sure that the facility remains intact. It could be bringing on other nonprofits who have the capital. We’re currently exploring every option.”
Since the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club is under contract with the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), there is a possibility that the Navy Yard Clubhouse could move some of its youth programming to another location in the neighborhood and continue to provide services to area kids.
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