Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Be First Boxing looking for new home


A long-time Peekskill youth program is searching for a new home after ongoing problems with the landlord wound up in city court.

Westley Artope, executive director of Peekskill Be First Boxing, told the Herald this week that conditions at the 8,000-square-foot building he rents at 200 North Water St. have been poor since new owners took over in 2019.

“He’s been very disingenuous – they’ve been very bad landlords from the beginning,” Artope said. “They falsified a document saying I owed more than I did, so I got an attorney so we’re working things out.”

West Artope, left, founder of Be First Boxing.

Artope said ongoing mold and drainage issues haven’t been addressed. “I’ve put a lot of my own money, I’ve been doing that, but I can’t continue to so it’s better for us to leave the property.” The program lost around $50,000 in damages during floods, he said.

The Be First Boxing program started at the Kiley Center. In 2012, the program moved to 1137 Main St. in an empty building owned by the city that was slated for demolition to make way for the new Central Firehouse.

Then in 2015, Be First relocated to the current 200 North Water St. location owned at the time by Phil Miller. “Phil had his ways, but he was easy to deal with,” Artope said.

The building at 200 North Water St. also is the site of the Jan Peek House Shelter. The property was acquired by 200 North Water St. Equities LLC in 2018. Malkie Lebrecht is listed as the managing member of 200 North Water St Equities LLC on land records.

Lebrecht’s company filed a lawsuit in Peekskill City Court in December 2022 alleging that Peekskill Be First stopped paying monthly rent in August. The lawsuit is seeking $51,200 in past due rent. Glen Malia, the attorney for 200 North Water St. Equities, said he could not comment on the case due to attorney-client privilege.


The 8,000 square foot gym at 200 North Water Street.

The case has been scheduled and adjourned from the court calendar several times since January of this year. Sonia Tanksley, the attorney representing Be First, said the case is back on the calendar with a trial date this week. “I’m speaking with my client and with the other side and I’m not certain yet,” Tanksley said regarding whether the case will be heard this time.

Be First provides more than just sports training. It also teaching the importance of diversity, conflict resolution, and understanding the role of health in keeping students together mentally and physically and applying those lessons to everyday life. Classes are also offered to adults.

“We serve a lot of kids and people,” Artope said. “We still have all our volunteer coaches who are incredibly dedicated and we have a lot of kids there who are relying on us.

“I’m dealing with issues with kids and parents on a daily basis from all different walks of life. Kids that are suicidal, other problems. Our program is important in their lives. We deal with the real issues.”

Artope said he is actively pursuing a new site for Be First Boxing. “I have a couple of places in mind. Going to try and get some grants and some donation money and then with my own money going to try and buy something so I don’t have to worry about moving again.

“All of our youth organizations in Peekskill, we have a large job to do and I don’t want to be distracted by b.s.”





About the Contributor
Jim Roberts
Jim Roberts has been in this business for more than 35 years (hard to believe) and still learning every day. A third-generation Peekskill resident, he started as a lowly researcher at the Westchester Business Journal in 1986 and learned how to be a reporter from many veterans in the field. He’s worked in private companies, Connecticut state government and wrote for the Co-op City Times for 10 years before retiring from full-time work in 2019. Roberts wants to contribute to building the Herald into a news website for residents who care about what’s happening in Peekskill.