After several years of planning and construction, residents of the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Polo Grounds and the surrounding Harlem neighborhood now have a brand new community center to enjoy for years to come. The Polo Grounds Community Center held a grand opening on Friday, March 2, 2012 among cheerful children, seniors, teenagers, NYCHA staff and elected officials who were all excited to access the new facility.
NYCHA Chairman John Rhea characterized the 23,000 sq. ft. community center as an “incredible jewel that’s being entrusted to [local youth and teens] to preserve for the generations that will come after them.” Chairman Rhea added, “It’s obviously an opportunity for them to build friendships; a place where we’re going to nurture our future leaders; and most importantly a place where we’re going to provide vital support for the families,” he said.
The Polo Grounds Community Center is a multi-functional building that features office space and common areas, including a gymnasium, a performance stage, club room, locker rooms, game room, video room with a sound booth, arts and crafts room with a kiln, and a commercial kitchen - all to be used for a variety of community programs – many of which will be offered by Children’s Village.
Children’s Village is a charitable organization that provides assistance to children and teens between the ages of 5 to 20 and their families through short-term residential and community-based programs, such as, after-school homework help, sports and recreation, dance, arts and crafts, and a summer camp, all of which will be offered at the new Polo Grounds Community Center. Children’s Village also provides daily snacks and meals to all participating children.
Yadira Cruz plans to bring her eight (8) and 14 year-old children to the new center. “I’m so happy,” Ms. Cruz said. “This building is beautiful. Now there are more opportunities for the kids.” Ms. Cruz also noted that the programs at the community center will provide a positive distraction from “thinking about drugs and bad things” for local youth and teens.
Joining Chairman Rhea in the grand opening festivities was Ruth Smith former Resident Association President at Polo Grounds and originator of the idea to build a community center at the site; Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Jeanne B. Mullgrav; State Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell, Jr.; Tonyna McGhee, Assistant Vice President of Children’s Village and Nikeya Stuart, Assistant Director for Children’s Village. Proud to see the results of many years of planning, Ms. Smith said of the completion of the Polo Grounds Community Center, “It took all that time, but we got it. We got it.”
By Heidi Morales
March 2, 2012