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Upper West Side Rec Center to Reopen After Long-Awaited, $15M Makeover

By Emily Frost | March 18, 2013 6:51am

UPPER WEST SIDE — It took 16 years of public meetings and tireless fundraising, but a popular recreation center on West 60th Street is finally reopening this month after a $15.5 million makeover, sources said.

Long known as the 59th Street Recreation Center, the revamped facility, which closed for construction in 2009, will open at the end of March, the sources said.

Located between West End and Amsterdam, it has been completely refurbished with a gym, a new pool and fitness center, two multipurpose rooms, a climbing wall, a computer room and an outdoor space that will be used as a soccer field.

"The idea was to keep the outdoor space flexible enough that there's space for an outdoor pool," said Community Board 7 member Mel Wymore.

 Community Board 7 member Mel Wymore created a task force to investigate the community's views on a new rec center. 
Community Board 7 member Mel Wymore created a task force to investigate the community's views on a new rec center. 
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DNAinfo/ Emily Frost

The restoration of the center was years in the making, said City Councilwoman Gale Brewer. In 1990, the center fell into disrepair and disuse after a crack in the outdoor pool was deemed too expensive to fix, she said.

Brewer described the center in the ensuing years as a "grimy" place.

"Once the outdoor pool closed there was a big downturn in usage," she said.

"There was mold in the locker rooms."

Former Upper West Side City Councilwoman Ronnie Eldridge secured $2.5 million in funding from real estate developer Tishman Speyer to update the center.

Wymore, who is the former chair of Community Board 7, said he formed a task force in 1997 to hear the community's feedback on how they wanted the funding used. The vision that emerged after a year-long process led to a realization that the renovation "was slated to need a lot more money than was available."

"We set out to raise the rest of the money," Wymore said. 

Funding for the renovation came from Brewer, the mayor's office, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and private and federal grants, according to the Parks Department.

In 2011, the Extell Development Company contributed $2.5 million.

Brewer estimated that some 150 meetings were held and hundreds of hours were dedicated to fundraising and getting community feedback.

"Lots of people had input. People from the Amsterdam Houses, people who used [the center] as swimmers, and we really worked," Brewer said. 

"[The center] incorporates so many people's opinions," Wymore added. "It [represents] results that are going to make a difference to people in the community."

The center, which dates back to 1906, has been renamed the Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center after the Olympic swimmer who lived in the neighborhood.

When the center opens, it will be available to the public daily Monday through Friday from 6:30 am to 10:00pm and on the weekends from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., according to the Parks Department.

The department has dedicated 13 staff members to create programming at the center, a Parks representative said. 

Brewer described an idyllic view for the outdoor space.

"It will have a playfield and places to sit and read," she said. "It will have a water area and other features."