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West 60th Street Rec Center Opens Its Doors After $15.3M Renovation

By Emily Frost | June 17, 2013 4:52pm
 The Gertrude Ederle rec center features fitness equipment and an indoor pool. 
West 60th Street Rec Center Opens Monday
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UPPER WEST SIDE — After years of waiting, residents took their first run on treadmills and laps in the pool at the revamped West 60th Street public recreation center Monday — a new state-of-the-art facility run by the Parks Department that's gotten $15.3 million in renovations.

Formerly known as the 59th Street Rec Center, the center was closed for renovations since 2009 before opening its doors on Monday, offering three stories with cardio and strength training rooms, a new indoor pool, an indoor gym, a computer room and activity rooms. 

"The [indoor] pool will be up and running and accessible to everyone for the first time in this community," said Parks Commissioner Veronica White. 

The center has been renamed the Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center — after the first woman to swim the English Channel, who lived and grew up just blocks away. 

Ederle's historic 14 1/2-hour swim across the channel is "an apt metaphor for the journey we've taken on this rec center," said Community Board 7 member Mel Wymore, who explained it took 13 years of work, three Parks commissioners, nine Community Board 7 Chairs and two City Councilmembers to bring the project to fruition.

The center, which originally opened in 1906, was once famed for its outdoor pool, but after that pool cracked in 1990, the whole center began to fall into disrepair, prompting the formation of a task force, Wymore said. 

For years, public officials and the task force met with residents and developers to iron out a cohesive plan for a new center that took into account both the growing number of young families' needs and those of seniors in the area, and included contributions from the surrounding luxury high rises. 

"We would sit for hours and put together the package that would make this work," said City Councilmember Gale Brewer, who helped negotiate $4.7 million from private developers coming into the neighborhood, and contributed $5.25 million from her own budget. 

Mayor Bloomberg and the Parks Department contributed $4.05 million, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer contributed $1 million and Congressman Jerrold Nadler helped secure $248,000 in federal grants, according to the Parks Department. 

Brewer said that while there are plenty of great surrounding parks, "this center will be a community center where people can come together from all walks of life."

The center is still undergoing work on the adjacent outdoor portion, which will eventually include a new playground, a field and sitting areas, officials said. The outdoor construction is expected to begin this summer, with no completion date set, according to a Parks spokeswoman.

Year-long memberships for adults age 25 to 61 are $150 a year, while young adults age 18 to 24 and seniors over age 62 pay $25 a year. Kids 17 years old and younger are members for free at the center, which is open seven days a week. 

Wymore and Mary Ederle Ward, Gertrude Ederle's niece, both shared tributes to the great swimmer, who was known as humble and warm, signing letters to fans "swimmingly yours," and "with channels of love."

Beverly Klinck, 79, who was among the crowd that visited the center Monday, could barely contain her excitement.

Klinck said she had been traveling down to Chelsea by bus to swim and exercise since the center closed for repairs. She's looking forward to the short four-block walk to the new center, she said.

"It was a schlep to Chelsea and it's not as clean there," she said.

She added that she is looking forward to using the treadmill and swimming three times a week.

Asked whether she would have any of her friends with her, she said, "My friends, they're a little lazy."