Place Category: Parks and Playgrounds
This building is named in honor of Anthony V. Dapolito (1920-2003), a long-time chair of Community Board 2, whose roots in the community and tireless work on its behalf earned him the honorary title, “Mayor of Greenwich Village.”
In 1920, shortly after he was born, Dapolito’s family opened the Vesuvio Bakery on Prince Street. Over the years, he progressed from making bread deliveries to owning the family business and ultimately becoming a highly respected community leader. For many years, Dapolito served as president of the First Precinct Police Community Council. He was elected 12 times as chairperson of Community Board 2 and also served as chairperson of its Parks Committee. His efforts resulted in the rebuilding of several neighborhood parks, and he helped lead the successful battles to defeat Robert Moses’s ill-conceived plans for the extension of Fifth Avenue, which would have cut through Washington Square Park, and for the Lower Manhattan Expressway, which would have leveled a wide swath of SoHo. He took a special interest in facilities and amenities for children, and was a consistent advocate for the youth of Greenwich Village. He died on July 2, 2003, one day before his 83rd birthday. In consideration of Mr. Dapolito’s great impact on this neighborhood, and especially its children and parks, the Department of Parks and Recreation named this recreation center for him in 2004.
The building originally took its name from nearby Carmine Street, which in turn is named for Nicholas Carman, a colonial-era vestryman from Trinity Church. Located at Clarkson Street and Seventh Avenue South, the facility was opened to the public on May 6, 1908 as one of several bathhouses in Manhattan commissioned by Mayor William L. Strong. In 1895, after decades of lobbying by social reformers, the State Legislature passed a law requiring free bathhouses in cities with populations over 50,000. By 1911 there were 12 such facilities serving “the great unwashed” in the city, as an antidote to the overcrowded and often unsanitary conditions of tenement life.
The architectural firm Renwick, Aspinwall and Tucker designed the facility, which cost approximately $132,954 to build. Originally, three City agencies operated in the building. The office of the Manhattan Borough President ran the showers and tubs on the first and second floors. The third floor gymnasium was supervised by the Recreation Commission (later the Department of Parks and Recreation), and the Board of Education was responsible for the roof area, which served as an open-air classroom for anemic and sickly children.
The center has undergone many changes since it was built. In 1911 Manhattan Borough President George McAneny announced that it would be furnished with a number of “benches, weights,” several “goals” for basketball and “all the other appurtenances to be found in up-to-date gymnasia.” The extension of Seventh Avenue South in 1912 delayed plans for an outdoor pool, and in 1920 a new indoor pool was completed, altering the building’s eastern façade. The Department of Parks assumed full jurisdiction over New York City’s bathhouses in 1938. The outdoor pool, designed by Aymar Embury II and built with Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) labor, was opened in 1939. Artist Keith Haring created the fanciful mural alongside the pool three years before his death in 1990.
The Tony Dapolito Recreation Center serves as a year-round hub for many in and around the neighborhood. In addition to providing fitness facilities, it hosts youth and adult athletic leagues, after-school programs, a summer day camp, fitness classes and many other activities. This center will continue to serve the people of Greenwich Village and New York City for many years to come, as did the extraordinary man it honors, and it will symbolize to future generations how one man’s work can have a lasting and positive effect on his community.
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