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Upper West Side Playground Nearly 2 Decades in the Making Opens to Public

By Emily Frost | September 27, 2016 4:15pm
 The Gertrude Ederle Playground opened Tuesday, a little more than three years after the adjacent renovated rec center opened. 
Gertrude Ederle Playground Opens
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Nearly 20 years after locals first started thinking up plans for what to do with a defunct outdoor pool on West 60th Street, a public park with new sprinklers, play equipment, benches and a turf field opened at the site Tuesday.

With entrances along West 60th and 59th streets between West End Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue, Gertrude Ederle Playground sits next to the renovated Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center, which opened after a $15.3 million renovation in 2013. 

The 21,480-square-foot space includes 17 benches along the perimeter and two sets of play equipment — one for children ages 2 to 5 and the other aimed at children ages 5 to 10. The park also includes a set of seven picnic tables, access to two bathrooms and a water-play area with sprinklers. 

"This is a place where people can exercise, play ball, read a book. It's a great great asset for this community," said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who formerly represented the neighborhood in the City Council and contributed funding for the park.

The $5.18 million project combined funding from developers of the new luxury towers surrounding the park, the City Council, the mayor and Brewer's office. Algin Management Co., Brack Captial Real Estate USA and Extell Development Co. contributed a combined $4.3 million, with the city kicking in $884,000. 

Nineteen years ago, local residents began envisioning a different future for the empty pool at the site, explained Mel Wymore, a Community Board 7 member who helped shepherd the public-private collaboration.

A task force was formed and the playground came to fruition through ongoing discussions and negotiations, he said. 

The playground and the rec center, both operated by the Parks Department, are named after the famous swimmer Gertrude Ederle. She was the first woman to swim across the English Channel and grew up a few blocks away on Amsterdam Avenue. 

The adjacent rec center offers low-cost gym memberships and free classes like kayaking and swim lessons.