Volume 18 • Issue 48 | April 14 - 20, 2006

Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel

Veronica Venture told her friends she hopes there will be a theater club in the new Manhattan Youth recreation center being built.

Bob Townley, executive director of Manhattan Youth, led a teen discussion to get ideas for the center.

Teens brainstorm ideas for coming rec center

By Chad Smith

Middle and high school students met with the executive director of Manhattan Youth at I.S. 89 last Thursday to suggest, what they considered, ideal after-school programs for a much-anticipated community center opening Downtown next April.

Bob Townley, the executive director of the non-profit organization, offered students feedback on their suggestions, which included getting a swim team for the pool at the new center, dance lessons, tutoring sessions, a weight room, a theater club, and yoga classes. Almost all suggestions would be realized, Townley said.

“We want this to be a place with an incredible amount of things to do,” Townley told the 15 students on the middle and high school youth council, who prepared these proposals for him last Thursday. “Most important,” he added, “we want this to be a place where you guys can come and decompress.”

Some middle and high school students also said that, although they live in Manhattan, they have little to do on weekends.

“Movies or friends’ houses. That’s it,” said Zach Newman, a 9th grade student at the meeting. Newman said that he’d probably spend much of his weekends at the community center, where he hoped to see teen counseling and language tutoring classes.

The new community center will also have a recording studio, painting and crafting material, and, at students’ specific requests, plenty of beanbag chairs.

In May 2004, when its lease expired, Townley planned to move Manhattan Youth’s first community center, which had been on 55 Warren St. for three years, to a space on Chambers St.

That initial plan, which placed the community center inside a residential tower set to be built inside the city-owned Site 5C lot, stalled after the September 11 attacks, as the site had to go under a formal city land use review. Although Manhattan Youth’s other programs flourished in the meantime, the community center was put on hold, causing some anxiety.

The delay, however, had one positive effect: it gave Townley and Manhattan Youth more time to raise more money for the community center, about $5.8 million, confirming it a 4-story, new home in the same residential building. That building, located at 200 Chambers, is under construction.

“When I heard the center was finally opening, I was so happy, I couldn’t believe it. We need a place like this,” said Veronica Venture, 16, who hopes the center will have a theater club.

Also, some said their parents worry about them when they hang out in the streets, and almost all parents would approve of their spending time at the new center.

“This center is going to be run by you guys,” said Townley. “Yes, there will be rules, but we want this to be a place where you can socialize and just be you.”



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