Replacing Cromwell: Will new recreation center bring kayaking to North Shore?

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Activating the North Shore waterfront has been a focal point of recent efforts to revitalize the area, and it could soon offer Staten Islanders an exciting, new way to spend their day.

As New York City plans to build a new $92 million North Shore recreation facility to replace the beloved Cromwell Recreation Center, various residents have voiced a desire for water-bound recreation programs, like kayaking, to be included at the new center.

The city Parks Department recently hosted a virtual community input meeting to solicit ideas from residents on the types of amenities, facilities and programs they would like to see at the new recreation center.

With the new recreation center located adjacent to the waterfront, multiple attendees asked about the possibility of implementing kayaking programs at the new facility to offer North Shore residents an opportunity to participate in water-bound recreation that typically takes place along the borough’s East and South shores.

Representatives from NYC Parks said that, while the department does not have much firsthand experience in those types of activities, it has a history of partnering with community organizations for such programs and would be willing to explore that possibility on the North Shore.

“We do have some wonderful partnerships with Kayak Staten Island, and we would absolutely want to continue to work with them as we move along,” said NYC Parks Staten Island Borough Commissioner Lynda Ricciardone. “When we can launch kayaks safely into the harbor, we would absolutely want to continue to partner with those organizations.”

Kayak Staten Island is a volunteer organization that provides free kayaking programs for Staten Islanders throughout the year.

“We, the volunteers, empower people to experience our parks, waterways and landscape from the unique perspective of a kayak. We are a Staten Island kayaking resource and we want to nurture a skilled, active kayaking community centered in a public boathouse to enhance recreational use of our waterways and appreciation for our waters’ cleanliness, safety and accessibility,” according to the organization’s website.

Kayak Staten Island did not respond to a request for comment as to whether the organization would be willing to partner with the city to provide kayaking at the new North Shore recreation center.

ABOUT THE NEW RECREATION CENTER

The original Cromwell Center, which was located on Pier 6, had been shuttered since 2010 when it suffered a devastating collapse after 74 years of serving the North Shore community.

The new $92 million recreation center, expected to be completed in late 2025, will be built above the Lyons Pool parking lot to ensure that parking is maintained and that the new building meets the elevation requirements necessitated by its proximity to a coastal flood zone.

Plans have been in the works since 2017 for what’s expected to be a 95,000-square-foot, three-level building, though the building layout is still subject to change dependent on community input and other circumstances.

A feasibility study determined then that the Lyons Pool parking lot site would be ideal for the facility because it’s near the existing Lyons Pool recreational facility, it’s easily accessible via mass transit and it’s a city-owned property with existing utilities.

Councilwoman Debi Rose (D-North Shore) has been instrumental in the rebuilding process, securing the funding for the new recreation center as part of the Bay Street Corridor Rezoning plan.

“I think many of us are here because we have fond memories of the old Cromwell Center… not just as a place for sports and recreation, but it was a real community hub for people from all over Staten Island,” Rose said. “The loss of the center in 2010 was a devastating one, and I made it my goal to secure funding on a city level because I know the impact the loss of it had on our community.”

After reviewing recently received community feedback, the city will begin preliminary design work for the new facility, which is expected to be presented to the community in fall 2022.

Early construction of the project is currently slated to start in spring 2023, with substantial completion of the project expected in late 2025.

For any residents who were unable to attend the virtual hearing, or who want to submit additional suggestions, NYC Parks asks that you submit your feedback via the department’s website.