NYC Parks Cuts the Ribbon on Newly Improved Highbridge Rec Center
On Monday, May 5, NYC Parks First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh joined Congress Member Charles Rangel, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Community Board 12 District Manager Ebenezer Smith, and Joel Towers, Executive Dean of Parsons The New School for Design, to cut the ribbon on the newly restored Highbridge Recreation Center in Northern Manhattan. The Highbridge Recreation Center, located on Amsterdam Avenue and West 173rd Street, underwent extensive renovations during the past three years, and NYC Parks and community partner organizations celebrated the center's re-opening with a day of free sports, fitness and educational activities for children and adults of all ages.
"We are thrilled to re-open the doors to the Highbridge Recreation Center as a year-round recreational facility for all members of the community," said NYC Parks First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh. "Thanks to our partnership with Parsons The New School for Design and with Council Member Rodriguez, we have created a truly year-round center with expanded programming to learn, to get active, and to stay fit."
"Highbridge Park is undergoing a renaissance that we in Northern Manhattan can be proud of," said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. "I am happy to see so much being done to make Highbridge a major destination in New York City and this project is a big step in that process. Parks and Parsons School of Design have done great work and our kids and families will be enjoying this rec center for years to come."
"Projects like Highbridge exemplify Parsons' commitment to design-led civic engagement, by giving students the opportunity to create works that have a lasting impact on urban built environments and the communities they serve" said Parsons Executive Dean Joel Towers. "We have had a long and fruitful educational partnership with Parks at Highbridge, and look forward to completing additional projects with them in the future."
In 2010, NYC Parks began a three-phase project in partnership with Parsons The New School for Design to reconstruct and upgrade parts of the Highbridge Recreation Center and Pool. The facility was built in 1936 as one of 11 city pools constructed through President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration (WPA) and commissioned by then Parks Commissioner Robert Moses. The first phase, completed in 2011, was the "Splash House." This outdoor pavilion was the first step in transforming Highbridge Recreation Center from a 9-month afterschool facility to a year-round recreational facility for Washington Heights residents of all ages by constructing new, exterior changing and locker areas for the outdoor pool. Prior to the Splash House construction, the recreation center's North and South wings served as lockers and changing areas for hundreds of thousands of outdoor pool patrons in the summer.
The final two phases enclosed the atrium of the facility, connecting the North and South wings and providing the Recreation Center with a new, modern front-desk and lobby space. This work was completed through the Design Workshop; a studio that connects graduate architecture students and professors from Parsons The New School for Design with community-based projects to provide pro-bono architectural design and build services for organizations throughout the country.
Parsons The New School for Design, raised significant private funding from Dan Tishman for instructors and tools, and obtained a major gift from Douglas Durst, to pay for materials. Students raised funds on Kickstarter as well as in-kind contributions, trade discounts, and other cash gifts. Together with the Parsons' contribution, private funds amounted to almost $1 million.
NYC Parks contributed more than $165,000 for upgrades throughout the interior of the facility. These renovations include a new fitness room with 17 pieces of cardio and strength equipment; 30 new lockers; 8 new PCs in the Computer Resource Center; new tile and rubberized flooring; new gymnasium wall padding; new interior doors; improvements to the HVAC system; a refurbished dance room floor; and lighting upgrades.
City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez provided $500,000 toward the project; funding the glass storefront that encloses the lobby, electrical fixtures and restroom improvements. The new glass storefront allows for natural light in the lobby and a view of the historic High Bridge Water Tower.
Over the past decade, more than $98 million in investments have been made as part of NYC Parks' efforts to revitalize the 130-acre Highbridge Park. New and restored playgrounds, the city's first mountain biking course, a world class skate park and now, a year-round recreation center, will serve the residents of Upper Manhattan. With the upcoming re-opening of the historic High Bridge, these expanded recreational amenities will also become better accessible to Bronx residents across the Harlem River.
Since 1910, NYC Parks has provided the most affordable and extensive network of recreational services throughout the five boroughs. NYC Parks Recreation Centers offer various programs in facilities with amenities including cardio and strength rooms, basketball courts, indoor pools, dance studios, art studios, computer resource centers, game rooms and libraries. Membership atNYC Parks Recreation Centers costs $100-$150/year for Adults (aged 25-61), $25/year for Seniors (aged 62 and over), $25/year for Young Adults (aged 18 to 24), and is free for youth under age 18. For more information on Recreation Center membership, visit http://www.nyc.gov/parks/membership.
Photos by Daniel Avila / NYC Parks.