Friday, 21 September 2012 00:00
Close to 2,000 onlookers cheered raucously as a decades-old dream was realized when Supervisor Jon Kaiman, Legislator Robert Troiano, Councilwoman Viviana Russell along with the North Hempstead Town Board and a host of other federal, state, county, town and village officials cut the ribbon to the North Hempstead “Yes We Can” Community Center in Westbury.
The grand opening on Sept. 8 of the 60,000 square foot community center—arguably the most environmentally advanced community center in the region—capped New Cassel’s model ongoing revitalization effort.
Pointing to the center as a place all every North Hempstead residents “can come together,” Supervisor Kaiman said, adding, “This has been a journey, one which started with a community vision and made possible by partnerships which encompassed all levels of government as well as the private sector.”
A “Who’s Who” in local, county, state, and U.S. political circles, attended the long-awaited event. They included Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, a representative for U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Jack Martins, former State Senator Michael Balboni, State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, State Assemblyman Charles Lavine, Nassau County Legislators Judi Bosworth and Wayne Wink, and Village of Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender.
The center features a massive gymnasium with two NBA-sized courts, a dance studio, TV/recording studios, a fitness center, an Internet café, a computer center, teen and senior lounges and multipurpose rental space.
The center was officially open for business after a ceremony during which members of Westbury’s Boy Scout Troop 233 presented the colors, local singing group LC Entertainment gave a beautiful rendition of the national anthem, and Bishop Lionel Harvey of the First Baptist Cathedral of Westbury, and president of the Unified New Cassel Community Revitalization Corp., gave the invocation.
Supervisor Kaiman, who coordinated the effort to fund, design and build the community center, spoke first. He was soon followed by Legislator Robert Troiano, Councilwoman Viviana Russell, and Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy.
Supervisor Kaiman recognized Legislator Troiano, Councilwoman Russell, as well as Community Center Director and local resident April Brown Lake, for meeting with him monthly on the project for several years. Together they worked on every detail, roadblock, policy issue and decision that needed to be made in order to move this project forward. Reverend Peynado gave the benediction.
The celebration was highlighted by a visit from 16-year NBA veteran Marcus Camby, who recently signed with the New York Knicks.
Mobbed by throngs as he signed autographs, Camby told the crowd, during a time-out in the basketball tournament, that the community is fortunate to have a community center like this, a place he would have loved to have had growing up in Connecticut. “Treat it with respect,” he urged them.
A platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified structure, the center features a host of cutting-edge environmental elements, including geothermal heating and cooling, a solar wall for hot water, rooftop solar panels and grade-level solar trees, as well as electric vehicle recharging stations.
“This story is about the triumph of a community,” said Troiano, a longtime local resident and former North Hempstead town councilman. “As a son of this community, I truly understand how people in this community are feeling today after waiting so long to have a place where we can come together. We kept our eyes on the prize and now we have this magnificent, multipurpose, multigenerational building.”
Councilwoman Viviana Russell, also a longtime local resident, remarked on the resolve and the unity knitting her community, one which has grown increasingly diverse over the years with the influx of Hispanics and Caribbean immigrants.
“This is where I live, where I raise my children, a community of faith, a community that truly believes it takes a village to raise a child. Residents have placed their pride and passion for their community ahead of any obstacles that came our way. This community center stands as a testament of how a faithful community and a willing government can work together to live up to the name of this building and to their determination to carve out a better tomorrow for our children.”
Congresswoman McCarthy called the center “the heart and soul” of the community. “Everyone here,” she said, “no matter your political persuasion, played a role in making this happen. It’s what we’re supposed to do. Yes We Can.”