Decades-old judo club being forced to close its doors

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CASTLE HILL -

A judo club that has been in the Bronx for decades is being forced to close up shop.

The Jamie Towers Judo Club typically has 20 to 30 members from the Castle Hill community. Each week, volunteer coaches and club members gather to teach kids the sport for free.

The nonprofit travels for competitions, and some of its athletes have even gone pro.

Founder Ralph Reyes started coaching children for free when he was able to get a room in the complex he lived in without being charged rent. He died in 2012.

Reyes' nephew Anthony Mercado took over, but he says the current property manager told him he might have to start paying up to stay put.

"I said, ‘Listen, I'll entertain that and we'll see if we can move forward or not,’ I never got a phone call, no communication, then a week before Christmas of 2018 we got a phone call from the same property manager and he stated that our dojo, this room was going to be used for something else, that the board decided something else for the room," says Mercado.

Then last month, Mercado received a latter telling him to pack up by the end of February.

Mercado called a meeting with the Jamie Towers Board of Directors Monday, and says he addressed their concerns in person and followed up in a detailed letter the next day. But he says the board could not tell them why they were being removed from the space.

Local lawmakers are getting involved to help find a solution that workers for everyone. State Sen. Luis Sepulveda's office is trying to set up a meeting with Mercado to gather more information. The borough president's office says if the judo club is forced to close, it will work with members to find a new location.

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