Harlem's Hansborough Recreation Center has been a key part of the community since the 1920s.
Deputy Manager Jamel Gist said he is glad to welcome back the public after being closed due to the pandemic since March of last year.
"We are excited to have them back as far as the members and our staff is really excited to finally do some classes so we are looking forward to really what's next in this process,” Gist said.
Hansborough is one of the Parks Department's more than two dozen recreation centers citywide reopening after a long COVID-19 shutdown. To celebrate, free one-year memberships are available to anyone who signs up between now and the end of the year.
Rec centers offer fitness and sports like basketball and pickleball, but acting Parks Commissioner Margaret Nelson said they are more than just that.
"Our recreation centers are in fact community centers, so they are a place for community to come together,” Nelson said.
To sign up for membership, folks must have received at least one of their COVID-19 vaccinations. Masks and social distancing will be required as well.
During the pandemic, rec centers and staff were repurposed for a variety of support services to assist in the fight against COVID-19.
"They were distributing masks in our parks as social distance ambassadors, which is a program we started. They were helping to distribute food to needy New Yorkers, so we had 11 of our recreation centers act as food distribution site, we delivered over 44 million meals as part of that program,” Nelson said.
Nearly a dozen rec centers will remain closed as some continue to act as testing and vaccination sites, while others are under renovations and two received storm damage from Ida. Indoor pools will reopen on September 27. For the rest, Nelson says they felt it was the right time to open their doors once again.
"We're heading towards recovery. We want to be a part of that. We want members to be able to access their recreation center for their emotional health, mental health, physical health. We want to be there for the community,” Nelson said.
Find out how to join the rec center nearest you at nycgovparks.org.