Giving teens a place to go


Whenever a story like the Roxen Road assault or the murder of Lauren Daverin-Gresham hits the news, the same cry echoes around Rockville Centre: we have to do something about teens roaming the streets.

After years of trying, the Rockville Centre Youth Council is finally able to offer teens in the village an alternative to hanging out on streets and footbridges.

Working with John and Joe LaSpina, the owners of RVC Lanes, the Youth Council will be opening a lounge at the bowling alley where teens will be able to hang out. There will be supervision of teens from the people running the bowling alley, but there won’t be chaperones hovering over their shoulders — something the Youth Council and the LaSpinas hope will attract more teens.

“Bowling has been the unofficial latch-key setting,” said John LaSpina. “In the 43 years I’ve been doing this, mostly in New York City, we raised a lot of kids that weren’t ours.”

The lounge — which will have tables and chairs, flat-screen TVs and free wi-fi — will be the home of the Youth Council, which has been much nomadic than its board likes. “It’s not lock-and-key for us, but we’ll be able to block our meeting times there,” said Beth Hammerman, chairman of the Youth Council. “We’re hoping to use it a lot and that it will become our home.”

Other organizations will be able to reserve the room, and it will be open to anyone at other times. The Youth Council plans to have its meetings there, as well as hosting events.

RVC Lanes is remodeling to make the room more suitable for the uses they have planned. Walls are being put up to block out the noise of the bowling alley. The room has its own door, which will be replaced. The tables in the room are custom-made from old bowling lanes from one of LaSpina’s other alleys. And he’s also planning on buying new chairs to fill the room.

“We’re probably a month to a month and a half away [from opening],” LaSpina said. “I’d say April 1.”

The LaSpinas lived in Rockville Centre for 20 years, and only recently moved to Long Beach. “Knowing the village the way I know it,” LaSpina said, “it needs a critical eye on kids’ activities and an option for them.”

One of the hopes is that the allure of no constant adult supervision will entice teens to come by after school and at night to hang out.

“The demographics in Rockville Centre lend itself to this kind of place,” said Joe LaSpina, who grew up in the village. “A lot of kids, a lot of kids with a little bit of spending money and not enough to do. That’s part of the Youth Council’s problem. So we can have a space where they want to be, where they can kind of be left alone to do their own thing where it’s still sort of supervised.”