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Dwight School celebrates opening of athletic facility

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 6/21/2013, 2:32 p.m.
Official Ribbon Cutting/Opening of Sports Facility

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Official Ribbon Cutting/Opening of Sports Facility

After six months of work, the Dwight School transformed an unused gym in an East Harlem housing property into an athletic center.

Last Wednesday marked the opening ceremony for the new Dwight School Athletic Center at the East River Landing housing cooperative. Elected officials, nonprofit organizations like Hope Community Inc., youth organizations like Harlem RBI and recently named Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd were on hand to partake in the festivities, including a tour of the center and a glimpse into the neighborhood's future.

The golden child of a partnership between Dwight School Chancellor Stephen Spahn and 1199 Housing Corporation President William Dames, Dwight School Athletic Center Director Mike Bailey talked about participating in the vision of the aforementioned men.

"I've had the distinct pleasure of helping he and Mr. Dames realize their shared dreams in bringing this center alive," said Bailey. "This is one of those things that will always be dear to my heart just to be a part of this."

In January, the AmNews broke the story on the Dwight School entering a 20-year lease with the 1199 Housing Corporation, which owns the East River Landing housing cooperative, for a recreational facility. Located inside the housing complex on 108th Street and First Avenue, the athletic facility was upgraded by Dwight and rechristened the Dwight School Athletic Center.

The 40,000-square-foot space includes a 25-yard swimming pool, exercise and dance rooms, learning spaces, locker rooms and saunas. The school also added 200-seat bleachers to the gym and converted the rooftop space into two tennis courts.

The school will run the facility full-time, but the deal also includes a partnership with the local community. Residents and community members will also have access to the facility on the weekends and in the summer, while the school will be the main tenant during the weekdays. Spahn, in yet another display of gratitude and partnership, announced that the entry way for the center will be named William Dames Hall.

The school will also provide a summer day camp for kids. New York City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito spoke to those in attendance on the partnership between the private school and the local community.

"What you see here-this complex, this development-is a real treasure here in East Harlem," said Mark-Viverito. "There have been a lot of challenges for 1199 over the years to maintain this development and this housing. I think what's being demonstrated today through this partnership is really a commitment to preserve the affordable housing that we have in this community.

"So what comes next?" asked Bailey when closing. Hopefully, it's fun for the residents of East River Landing and the Dwight School.