K2 Boxing Club gets busy most weekdays around 5 p.m., when fighters start filing in from all corners of the city to work with some of the best trainers in town.
The speed bags bounce to life and the air is filled with the dull thwacks of fists popping against leather as the brawlers begin the daily ritual of punishing their minds and bodies to prepare for their next showdowns.
The gym relocated in 2008 from a warehouse near the intersection of 126th Street and Northern Boulevard in Willets Point to a Long Island City storefront, and its membership has nearly tripled since the move.
“That was the biggest place we had, but there was no housing and it was hard to get there,” trainer Eddie Thompson said of the Willets Point days. “We’re going to be good now. This is a better place, we get a lot more people coming through the door.”
The conditions in the Iron Triangle led the facility’s operators to pack up and split after just two years there, leaving behind only a tattered flag to remember it by.
Trainer Yusef Robinson — a former professional boxer who has been with K2 since it opened five years ago in a cramped room in Flushing — says it’s a good thing they did.
“It was a lonely ghost town, mostly auto salvage, junk yards, a wasteland. It was horrible over there. Kids had to walk to the train station so I thought it was dangerous. It’s scary, especially for kids,” he said while slowly wrapping a young female’s fighter’s fists in protective gauze.
“There were rat droppings at night. I thought we were in Hunts Point or something — old factories with a lot of lip-lockers — that’s a term for prostitutes. We saw them there mostly at night and on the weekends. It’s because it’s so desolate, so secret.”
But the area’s eccentricities were not the worst of the gym’s concerns. Its managers set up a van to safely transport youths from downtown Flushing to the Willets gym, and the space was large enough to hold two boxing rings.
What chased K2 out of Willets Point was the city. Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a massive Willets Point redevelopment plan May 1, 2007. By 2008, the city was breathing down the necks of Willets property owners and tenants, urging them to sell their land to make room for $3 billion in new development.
K2 decided to bow out before land seizure became part of the equation, which it did last month when the city sent out notices that it was beginning eminent domain proceedings against nine local businesses.
“The redevelopment impacted us tremendously. We were going to get squeezed out of there,” Robinson said. “The city basically said, ‘Either we’ll work around you or work through you, you son of a biscuits.’”
The gym’s current home in a former appliance store, at 34-09 Queens Blvd., has been a major improvement, Jane Cho, its energetic manager, agreed.
“Our numbers have gone way up because of moving here. We’ve been able to do way more promoting and events here,” she said. “It’s a great place: lots of schools around, near the train.”
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cn
©2011 Community News Group
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