This is all a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago.
A new recreation center is coming to Hunters Point, and will be lodged at the base of Hunters Point South (HPS) Phase 2. The 44,000-square-foot space will offer tons of amenities: two pools, including a lap pool and a rec pool with a large slide and water features, a large gymnasium for basketball, volleyball, and indoor sports clinics, a wellness center with cardiovascular and strength training equipment, large group exercise class space, and community multi-purpose space for youth and family programs.1 It will be open to the whole Long Island City community, with planned activities for kids, teens, adults, and seniors. Additional sports such as soccer, gymnastics, tennis, and martial arts are expected to be offered, and there will also be a whole roster of non-athletic options, such as music, dance, and arts classes.
The exact timing of the center is not known, but the current Mayor’s full court press to develop affordable housing is expected to help expedite the project. Also to be determined, is the operator of the center, with Asphalt Green and the YMCA both expected to compete heavily for it, just as they did several years ago down in Battery Park City to run its 50,000 square foot facility.
In the interim, the proposal includes a plan to bridge the gap by utilizing the new gymnasiums at PS/IS78 and the High School (on 51st Avenue and Center Boulevard) for youth and adult sports programs starting this winter.
Numerous local politicians were thrilled to add their candid spin upon receiving the news. According to Jimmy Van Bramer “Because of the nascency of the community, the Hunters Point neighborhood has lacked many amenities that one of this size should have.” “Quite frankly,” he continued, “the LIC YMCA is a complete misnomer, because it is too far away for the residents of Hunters Point, and a good portion of LIC, to conveniently avail themselves. It is four stops on the 7-train, versus one stop in the other direction to the Vanderbilt Y in Manhattan. Research has shown that proximity is the most important criteria with regards to people actually going to the gym.”
State Senator Mike Gianaris added “There is a precedent for slotting rec centers in newly built towers, as it happened in the very similar community that is Battery Park City just a few years ago.” The BPCA awarded the plot and right to build 421 units to Milstein Properties, conditioned upon including a 50,000 square foot community center. “Quite frankly,” he continued, “we have been so focused on adding and improving affordable housing units in these towers, that we dropped the ball on amenities for long time residents and the community as a whole.”
State Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan noted “The new school gymnasiums are a wonderful resource, and have been sitting dormant during non-school hours. Quite frankly, it’s been a terrible waste, and I am glad to be able to say that it will be rectified immediately.”
Expect to hear more about these programs in the next month, as they are planned to commence in November, just at the onset of winter. In tandem with the community center, they will be a big step towards helping convert Long Island City from a good neighborhood to a great one, much like the vaunted suburbs that local families frequently leave for, …except without the commute.
Being exactly half a year since April Fools, I thought it was time I dropped another ruse upon you. Except this one is of a more serious note, and could, and should, actually be true.
But great ideas such as this one do not just happen, they require initiative. Any time a pol is in the neighborhood for an event, go right up to them and say “I want a community center open to all residents in Hunters Point Phase 2.” Better yet, call up their offices. If it happens again and again and again…the squeaky wheel. Do not take no for an answer, this is all in the determining stage right now. Believe it or not, politicians actually do want your input on local matters. When they don’t live in the neighborhood themselves, they are happy to have a knowledgeable guiding hand.
Furthermore, the use of school gymnasiums to bridge the gap also has a precedent. First of all, every single public school in Manhattan rents theirs out to amateur sports groups. Secondly. most suburbs such as Chappaqua, Manhasset, and Summit, have all formed youth programs centered around school facilities. Finally, when Stuyvesant High School was relocated into a stellar brand new building in Tribeca back in the 90’s, the Battery Park City Authority isolated and enhanced their sports facilities, created a separate entrance, and opened it to the community in the off hours.
So, Battery Park City has the Asphalt Green BPC, the Stuyvesant HS Community Center, Manhattan Youth Leagues, Downtown Soccer, and who knows what else?2 What do we have? Hmm, how about a whole generation of children growing up in an athletic void?3 Oh, and a pool …we don’t have that either. A much needed “amenity” for all residents. As noted, a well located community center is one of the things that turns a good neighborhood into a great one. The time to act is now.
More Active Play Equals Better Thinking Skills for Kids – “As schools cut down on physical education and recess, kids are spending more time than ever in a desk. And while nerdy second-graders like me didn’t ever consider arguing for more gym, there’s increasing evidence that being active helps not just children’s waistlines but their brains.”
The Brand New Rockaway YMCA is Open – as of February 2014
Battery Park City Authority Anoints Asphalt Green as Operator of New Community Center – “The community center will go in the base of the residential towers Milstein Properties is building”
Community Center Awaits Its Debut – “The new center, which includes a culinary center, gym, two pools and a theater…” And it doesn’t always happen on schedule either
- lifted directly from the Rockaways YMCA opening story earlier this year [↩]
- just google it for more [↩]
“A Syllabus For City Schools” (Editorial, Sept. 8, Crain’s) advocates for the city to schedule students to exercise on a daily basis—a suggestion we strongly agree with. In New York City and across the nation, children are not getting enough physical activity. The grave consequences can include childhood obesity, reduced academic performance and behavioral problems.
Unfortunately, not all New York City schools have a gymnasium, pool or appropriate space to run quality physical-education programs for kids. That’s where partnering organizations can play a vitally important role. The Y works with the city’s public schools to supplement and extend the P.E. curriculum and offer structured recess on-site at schools and in our YMCA gyms, pools, fitness centers and community rooms.
We should recognize, however, that a lack of exercise for our children is a problem that no organization, state or city can solve alone. Community-based challenges demand community-based solutions; when the stakes are this high, the responsibility is one we all share. It’s through these collaborations that we’ll be able to help our kids focus rather than fidget.
—Jack Lund Crain’s Sept. 29, 2014
President and CEO, YMCA of Greater New York [↩]