Volume 21, Number 31 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | DECEMBER 12 - 18, 2008
YMCA, Asphalt Green make bids for B.P.C.
By Julie Shapiro
Two organizations are vying to open a community center in Battery Park City: The YMCA, which has 22 satellite centers across the city, and Asphalt Green, which runs a 5.5-acre fitness center on the Upper East Side.
Both organizations submitted proposals to operate a 50,000-square-foot community center in the base of the residential towers Milstein Properties is building adjacent to the B.P.C. ballfields. The community center will have a gym, pool, auditorium and classrooms.
“I’m very, very pleased the YMCA is one of the facilities interested in relocating Downtown,” said Julie Menin, chairperson of Community Board 1. “I’m confident they have a real understanding of what the needs are in the community.”
Lower Manhattan leaders have been in talks with the YMCA for years about opening a Downtown branch, and the Y already did a feasibility study on the move, Menin said. She added that she looked forward to hearing more about both the YMCA and Asphalt Green plans.
The Battery Park City Authority is weighing the proposals, which were due at the end of October, and confirmed the two respondents but declined to release additional information about them this week. The authority plans to spend $27 million building the center once Milstein turns over the core and shell. The center is scheduled to open at the end of 2010.
The authority initially only received one response to the request for proposals, from the YMCA, but reopened the process to get more responses and Asphalt Green responded the second time.
Community Board 1 will have a seat on the panel reviewing the proposals, Menin said, though the financing details may have to stay private. She said she’ll likely appoint Anthony Notaro, chairperson of the B.P.C. Community Center Taskforce, and Linda Belfer, chairperson of the B.P.C. Committee, to help make the decision.
Notaro said the YMCA had a great track record and he did not know as much about Asphalt Green, but it would come down to which organization submitted the best proposal. The biggest issue, he said, will be for the future community center to strike a balance between serving the community and generating enough revenue to be sustainable.
One community member, who did not want to give his name, expressed a strong preference for the YMCA because they have experience opening neighborhood centers, while Asphalt Green, although an impressive facility, has never expanded beyond the Upper East Side.
If the authority picks Asphalt Green, the new center will look similar to Asphalt Green’s Upper East Side location, albeit smaller, said spokesperson Chris Dobens. Asphalt Green offers physical fitness programs to everyone from toddlers to seniors, along with gymnastics, martial arts and an array of other sports.
Asphalt Green currently does not offer programs beyond athletics, but Dobens would not say whether that would be the case at the B.P.C. center as well.
Kevin Shermach, spokesperson for the YMCA, also did not release many details on plans for the new center, but he said it would be similar to the YMCA’s other locations. The Y offers social and educational programs in addition to fitness.
The YMCA was particularly attracted to Battery Park City because of the many children and families living nearby.
“We know there is a need for YMCA services in Battery Park City,” Shermach said. “Battery Park City is such a large and thriving community.”
The YMCA currently does not have a location south of the Chinatown Y, at Houston St. and the Bowery. That center was never intended to cover all of Lower Manhattan, Shermach said.
Shermach sees each new YMCA location as a springboard for the Y to expand its services into the surrounding neighborhood as well. The B.P.C. center may offer programs like swim lessons on site, then go into local schools to offer after-school and teen leadership programs. Millennium High School has an after-school program run by the Chinatown Y, Shermach said.
Lower Manhattan already has a new community center just across the West Side Highway from Battery Park City — last spring, Bob Townley opened Manhattan Youth’s Downtown Community Center on Warren St. He did not want to comment on the prospect of a competitor nearby, but he said this is a tough time for community centers.
“It’s not a slam dunk that we’re going to be able to do everything we want to do here,” Townley said. “It’s too early to call.”
Townley has already received cuts on his government-funded programs, and he expects they will get cut further. He has received many scholarship requests from parents who have lost their jobs but don’t want to pull their children out of the after-school program.
Manhattan Youth is slated to roll out its next phase of new programs in January.