Binghamton City Council opens youth center, but other options remain in sight

St. Mary of the Assumption is open to selling or sharing its recreation center with another entity, Reverend Jon Werner said. (Jillian Forstadt/WSKG)

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) – The City of Binghamton has filed its plan to build a multimillion-dollar community and youth center for Columbus Park.

Initial plans put construction costs at around $7 million, but Mayor Jared Kraham said updated plans put that figure at $10 million. It could rise further as construction and gas costs continue to soar.

“Since the bids came in late last year, prices for all materials have gone up even further,” Kraham continued.

For Councilwoman Aviva Friedman, given the additional funds needed for youth center staff and programs, $10 million just for construction was too expensive.

“They didn’t want to charge money for any of the programs because, in my opinion, we shouldn’t,” Friedman said. “So the question was asked, how was this going to be a revenue-generating project?”

The Friedman neighborhood includes Columbus Park, located on Carroll Street. Around the corner, along the edge of the park, is the St. Mary of the Assumption Recreation Center.

The Reverend Jon Werner, pastor of St. Mary’s, said the recreation facility had been underutilized by the church for several years. It hosts a weekly community meal and an annual festival there, but few other programs are held there on a regular basis.

Inside there is a gym with basketball courts and a full kitchen.

“With the size of the space and things, it’s certainly a nice place for these activities, but we don’t really have the people power to support the programs,” Werner explained.

Werner said the church is open to selling or sharing the facility with another entity. He spoke with Kraham and his predecessor, Rich David, about using the facility, as well as college basketball coach and Binghamton native King Rice.

Rice was a basketball star as a student at Binghamton High School and now coaches men’s basketball at Monmouth University.

Kraham told WSKG that the opportunity to use St. Mary’s Recreation Center for a community and youth center is “very much on the table,” but added that the city would support if Rice was also interested. building.

Council members seemed enthusiastic about using the facility.

“A building is just a building,” Friedman said. “A building is only as good as what goes on inside.”

It could also free up federal COVID relief money for other uses. City officials had planned to use $3 million of its US federal bailout allocation to build the youth center.

Council members voted on Wednesday to earmark those funds so they could be used elsewhere.

“COVID has and continues to devastate our communities and communities across the country,” Friedman added. “We need to probe very deeply into our neighborhoods and engage deeply with our constituents.”

Several million of the $46 million allocated by the US City Bailout Act have been committed to housing initiatives across the city.

Binghamton officials will continue to monitor lower-cost options for a youth center.

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