As we reported on Friday, more than 100 kids from local schools and elected officials came to Pier 36 to celebrate the long-awaited official opening of Basketball City. The 70,000 square foot facility, located at the end of Montgomery Street, features seven courts, locker rooms, a restaurant and a promenade with access to the East River.
The facility hosts corporate basketball and volleyball leagues, as well as children from neighborhood schools. It’s also a large-events venue. A few weeks ago, Basketball City was the site for a huge bike expo attended by 45,000 people. As part of his agreement with Community Board 3, Bruce Radler (the organization’s owner) plans to hold youth sports clinics, beginning in the fall.
During Friday’s media event, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the opening represented the end of a 26 year-long battle for control of the pier. In 1986, Silver sued the city, arguing that the pier should be reserved for community use. The Dinkins administration intended to use the East Side location for a refueling station and for storage.
Radler, who opened Basketball City on the West Side, in 1997, said it was an emotional moment for him when the kids ran onto the courts Friday morning. City Council member Margaret Chin said the facility is an invaluable resource for the children of the Lower East Side and Chinatown.
In the last several years, community groups pressed Radler for more community access at Basketball City. David Garza, executive director of Henry Street Settlement, said he’s been very impressed with Radler’s commitment to hiring locally. Henry Street is part of a consortium, the LES Employment Network, that’s helping to recruit potential employees. Following the festivities last week, we met one new employee, Robert Gaskin, a maintenance worker who had previously been working as a Henry Street intern.
The site is owned by the city and managed by the NYC Economic Development Corp. Basketball City was financed, in part, through the New Market Tax Credit, a federal program designed to generate economic development in low-income neighborhoods. The refurbished building features energy-efficient lighting, gas fired heating systems and a maple floor that rests on a environmentally friendly composite floor.
Basketball City’s courts are not available for “pick-up games.” Radler said it’s a model that has been tried and failed in other parts of the country.