NEW YORK -- Less than a year ago, Patterson Playground was all concrete, resembling more of a parking lot than a place for children to play. Now, it's a turf youth baseball field.
As part of NYC Park's Adopt-a-Park program, DREAM -- formerly Harlem RBI -- donated $1.5 million to renovate the Patterson Playground into the baseball field that stands here now. The ribbon cutting ceremony was on Thursday, marking the completion of a project that was four years in the making.
"It was basically a parking lot with no cars on it, just trash," said former Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, who is a member of DREAM's Board of Directors. "It had some lines on it where you could play maybe kickball. You could maybe throw a ball, but you couldn't play any real sports here, on a concrete parking lot."
The ceremony took place after a DREAM baseball youth clinic was held earlier that morning. The children who participated in the clinic watched the ceremony and then helped cut the ribbon.
Teixeira, who served as the MC for the ribbon cutting ceremony, first came to the Patterson Playground over four years ago with a few people, including DREAM's executive director, Richard Berlin.
They were discouraged by the lack of children playing at the park, but they understood why nobody wanted to play there. Their mission became to significantly renovate the park into a place where children would want to play.
"If I had a park this nice, I would have been on it every day," said Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery, who was on hand for the ceremony. "I think they'll take advantage of it and play on it as much as we hope they do."
It was a long process to bring the project to fruition. A lot of time, money and energy goes into any New York City project, and coming up with all of those resources is the reason why some projects never make it out of the idea phase.
In addition to the $1.5 million DREAM raised to build the baseball field at Patterson Park, the local government has allocated $2.2 million more for future renovations, which will include basketball and handball courts, as well as a community garden.
"There's a lot of different groups that are involved. Navigating all of the different stakeholders is No. 1, and No. 2 is raising the money," Teixeira said. "That's a lot of capital that gets poured into one project, and it just takes a while. Finally, the hard work has paid off."
For Teixeira, who has been involved with DREAM for the last eight years, what comes next is just as important as all that went into the new and improved Patterson Park. There are still many more communities that need places to play.
"We're spending a lot of time right now in Newark, [N.J.]," Teixeira said. "We feel that there's a lot of areas in need in New York, but there's also areas in need all over the country.
"Once we tackle the Tri-State Area, we're looking at expanding to other big league cities. We have a great relationship with Major League Baseball, and we're going to look at those opportunities."