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P&S Journal

P&S Journal: Winter 1998, Vol.18, No.1
P & S News

Runners Take to the Armory Track

By Kristen Watson

The armory at Fort Washington Avenue and 168th Street, formerly an overpopulated shelter for homeless men, is now the training grounds for local runners and Olympic athletes.

The armory when it housed up to 2,000 homeless men.
After undergoing a major transformation, the facility reopened as the Armory Track and Field Center, a state-of-the-art facility with an Olympic-size running track, in November 1993. The track is used regularly by local track teams and other athletes. According to the center's director, Edward Small, athletes from 55 high schools and six colleges train at the armory, and approximately 200 individuals use the track for training at night.

The armory is also a housing facility, but on a much smaller scale than in the past. Once a shelter for about 1,500 homeless men, the population has been reduced by court mandate to a maximum of 200 who live under stabilized conditions with access to psychiatric counseling and support.

The armory today as the Armory Track and Field Center.

Funding for the track refurbishment was provided by Saucony, an athletic shoe company, and private contributions. The center also charges rent for use of the track; the rent pays for about half the maintenance and expense costs.

The armory hosted 66 track meets this past season, including the Eastern States Championships and the Chase Manhattan Mayor's Trophy. "We probably host more track meets per year than any other place," says Mr. Small. "We're open seven days; it's a busy place."

Mental Health Program a Success with Homeless

The small homeless shelter housed in the armory includes the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Centeršs Critical Time Intervention Mental Health Program, which has developed a successful model that helps homeless men make the transition from shelter to community living. The model reduces episodes of homelessness and is cost-effective. Results of the program were published in the American Journal of Public Health in early 1997, and a training program is under way to teach the intervention to others

Mr. Small says Boston is probably the closest site for a track equal in size to the armory's track. "The seating capacity and track size make this a popular site for meets. Our track is larger than the track at Madison Square Garden."

The track is closed during the summer, but the armory hosts other activities, such as a gymnastics program and a Police Athletic League day camp. The track reopened for training in November, when runners were surprised to find a freshly painted facility. "The runners think the white, orange, and blue color scheme makes the facility a lot brighter," says Mr. Small, "especially the new white paint on the ceiling. It covers the original olive green paint from 1909.

copyright ©, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center

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