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How Asphalt Green Serves the Community

by Sybil Maimin

CEOs typically have windowed offices with views, but Carol Tweedy, executive director of Asphalt Green, is perhaps the only one whose fourth-floor indoor window looks down on the magnificent specter of a 50-meter Olympic-size swimming pool. Furthering the magic, as the pool can be separated into sections by bulkheads and each segment's floor raised and lowered hydraulically, she can see three separate activities simultaneously, such as children learning to swim in shallow water, adults performing water exercises in deeper water, and serious swimmers doing laps. Built on the site of a former municipal asphalt plant whose unusual parabolic arched building had been landmarked, Asphalt Green also includes a therapeutic warm-water pool, an indoor and outdoor track, a fitness center, two gymnasiums, aerobics rooms, a physical therapy/health center, an Astroturf field, arts studios, and a 100-seat theater.

In return for sitting on public land, non-profit Asphalt Green must give one third of its services free to the community. It does this creatively and enthusiastically by developing relationships with public and parochial schools and non-profit agencies to promote sports and fitness as keys to lifelong health. A "water-proofing," or swim instruction, program for third and fourth graders begun in l993 has been so successful that a "dry land" program of sports was initiated this year. Schools choose a program based on student needs, but Asphalt Green always incorporates a fitness and health component, turning passions for sports into good lifelong habits. Beginning next year, it will offer a program on sports, fitness and health to teachers so they can bring that knowledge back to their schools. A Fitness Careers Program, begun this year, exposes teens to employment opportunities in the field and encourages completion of education.

Other non-fee opportunities are: the Community Sports Leagues, co-ed professionally-supervised programs in soccer, football, basketball, and softball for low-income youth; a summer day camp which awards scholarships to 175 of its 500 participants; and a gender-sensitive health and fitness curriculum designed for the Young Women's Leadership School in East Harlem. Art workshops are free to public school classes, and schools can arrange for free use of the pool, gyms, theater, art and photo studios, and Astroturf field. Scholarships and reduced fees are offered in classes with charges. Special programs are offered to people with disabilities.

Ms. Tweedy, whose background is in social service, emphasizes the value of sports and fitness activities as ways to make people strong, confident, and able to handle the exigencies of life. She has seen it in her own history and, in fact, notes that the best perk of her job is the ready availability to her of the wonderful facilities just outside her office window.

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