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Gym and Theater May Cover TriBeCa Dog Run

By Julie Shapiro | April 13, 2011 2:12pm

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

TRIBECA — Most people look at the Warren Street dog run and just see dogs.

But when Bob Townley, the executive director of Manhattan Youth, looks at it, he sees space for the public gym and theater that he believes downtown's rapidly growing population desperately needs.

"The need in this neighborhood is tremendous," said Townley. "The need in seven years will be stupendous. It will be off the charts."

Townley unveiled schematics this week to build a gym and theater over the dog run, as an extension of his Downtown Community Center, which is next-door. The dog run would remain in place, and the new structure would exist over it, Townley said.

The new building between Greenwich and West streets would have room for a multi-purpose gym and a theater that would measure about 70 feet by 40 feet, Townley said. The building could not be any bigger because it is sandwiched between P.S. 234 and the co-op at 200 Chambers St.

Townley particularly wants the new space to serve local teenagers, who often get forgotten amid all the efforts to serve downtown's younger kids, Townley said. It could also contain classrooms for the perennially overcrowded P.S. 234.

Community Board 1's Youth and Education Committee voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to support Townley's efforts.

The project still requires many city approvals, because Manhattan Youth would have to buy air rights, and Townley also has to win over neighborhood dog owners and the residents of 200 Chambers St.

Townley said the dog owners were on board because the sheltered dog run would be warmer in the winter and protected from the rain, and because in the course of the construction, workers would be able to improve the run's drainage.

A longtime TriBeCa resident who was letting his dog run around the enclosure on a recent misty morning said he wouldn't mind having a roof over his head.

"My honest opinion is if the building … [is] going to help the community then I am fine with it," said the man, who declined to give his name.

Townley has also spoken to the co-op board at 200 Chambers St., and he said they liked the idea of having a new building in between the noisy dog run and their windows.

Manhattan Youth does not have a cost estimate for the project, but it could run in the millions of dollars.

"If we can find the money and find the will, we can build this," Townley said. "This is a win-win for everybody."

Townley's next step is to form a committee of local residents who will help him move the project forward.

The dog walk on Warren Street.
The dog walk on Warren Street.
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Serena Solomon/DNAinfo

With additional reporting by Serena Solomon.