WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The Highbridge Park Recreation Center is open for business — and thanks to a just-completed renovation, it will now stay open year-round.
The city's Parks Department, elected officials and representatives from Parsons The New School for Design joined northern Manhattan residents Monday to unveil the overhauled recreation center, which is fresh off three years of fixes that have turned it into a year-round facility.
"This space was wide open, it was freezing cold in here during the winter. We really couldn't keep the wings very warm, and it didn't make a welcoming environment for people to come here throughout the year," Parks First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh told visitors in the center's new atrium.
"But that's all changed thanks to this great project."
The $1.65 million upgrade, funded with public and private money, created a new glass-enclosed lobby with a ceiling at the 78-year-old recreation center, located at 2301 Amsterdam Ave., near West 173rd Street.
Other additions included a new computer lab with eight computers, a renovated dance studio and a fitness center with 17 new machines. A new outdoor locker room, dubbed "The Splash House," was also added.
The renovation was carried out in stages, with the locker room opening in 2011, and the atrium and front desk lobby being built later. The lobby was designed by the Design Workshop, a graduate program at Parsons that connects students and professors with community-based projects.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who committed $500,000 in funding to the renovation, said that the project was about sending the message that northern Manhattan children deserve the best.
"You deserve all the opportunities to have good pools, to have a beautiful park, and to have a safe community," Rodriguez told the audience, which included dozens of neighborhood children.
The recreation center is just one piece of the $98 million in repairs that have been committed to Highbridge Park, including restored playgrounds, a mountain bike course, an upcoming ice skating rink and the renovation of the High Bridge, which is scheduled to be completed in December.
Obed Fulcar, a teacher at M.S. 319 in Washington Heights, was thrilled with the repaired center.
"They did an awesome job in upgrading the facilities," Fulcar said. "It's going to be a hit, not just with kids, but with everyone."