|New Collaboration Makes a “Splash” at Highbridge Recreation Center|
|Tuesday, August 16, 2011|
By Nancy Bruning
Next summer, when you visit the pool at the Highbridge Recreation Center, you’re bound to be pleasantly surprised. The new aptly named “Splash House,” a snazzy outdoor pavilion, will be complete. When I visited a few weeks ago to get some relief from this summer’s humidity, I saw that just the framework exists, but what a framework!
The wooden skeleton of the much-needed structure represents just the beginning of many things.
It is the beginning of a pavilion which will include new changing rooms, locker rooms, and natural light, water and ventilation systems. There will also be a water curtain that is sure to be a popular play feature for the kids (in all of us).
The pavilion was kick-started this past Tues., July 26th, when about 75 volunteers from Major League Soccer (MLS), Home Depot and the Washington Heights Community hefted wooden beams and wielded tools to set up the framework. The project also has support from Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.
According to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, this effort will help the Park Department’s efforts to increase the recreational opportunities at Highbridge Center. As such, the Splash House will be another milestone in the road of physical improvements and updates made to the pool and recreation center since its opening in 1936.
Finally, it is also the beginning steps of an innovative collaboration between Parks and The New School for Design at Parsons through its Design Workshop.
The Design Workshop is a “design-build studio” led by graduate architecture students at Parsons. It provides free architectural and construction services to nonprofit organizations while giving graduate students a welcome, and rare, opportunity to both design and build a community facility. When I was a design student at Pratt Institute, we would have greatly benefited from working with residents and seeing our designs come to fruition in “the real world.” It would have made us better designers after we graduated, and increased our awareness about what people really need and how they would actually use a structure. According to the Joel Towers, Parsons’ Executive Dean for the past 20 years, the workshop has been pioneering “the practice of urban design-build in the university context.” With this new partnership, the aim is to “tap the expertise accumulated over the course of the program to re-imagine and improve some of the city’s most important public spaces.”
Although the collaboration is only intended as a five-year initiative between Parsons and Parks to identify and implement improvements in public spaces across the city, let’s hope it goes beyond the five years and becomes permanent.
In the meantime, everybody into the pool!
Highbridge Park Pool is located at 2301 Amsterdam Avenue at174th Street.
Pool hours: 11 am – 3 pm and 4 pm – 7 pm, until Labor Day. This pool has a Learn to Swim Program, but no adult lap swim times. Call (212) 927-2400 for info or visit http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/highbridgepark.
Admission to the pool is free, but there are rules, all designed “for everybody’s health, safety, and protection.” For example: Beach chairs, baby strollers, bags, blankets, or beach balls are not permitted on the pool deck. They make an effort to secure strollers just inside the entrance. No food or alcohol is allowed, nor are glass bottles or newspapers (books and bound periodicals are okay). Anything you carry to the pool must be in a clear or see-through bag. For a complete listing of the rules, visit
http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_things_to_do/facilities/af_pool_rules.html, and for more information about the Design workshop, visit http://sce.parsons.edu/labs/ design-workshop-parsons/.