Refurbished Chris Gatling Center reopens to the public

Photo by Chris Sykes The Irvington High School Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Honor Guard stands at attention on Friday, Sept. 30, during the grand reopening of the Chris Gatling Recreation Center.
Photo by Chris Sykes
The Irvington High School Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Honor Guard stands at attention on Friday, Sept. 30, during the grand reopening of the Chris Gatling Recreation Center.

IRVINGTON, NJ — In keeping with the spirit of renewal, Mayor Tony Vauss and Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs Director Donald Malloy hosted the grand reopening of the refurbished Chris Gatling Recreation Center on Union Avenue on Friday, Sept. 30.

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” said Malloy, who also sang the national anthem and led those in attendance in saluting the flag at the event. “I was able to speak to the children and their eyes are lit up and (are) ready to enjoy the programs we have that will take place out of this new facility. We are finally able to look like, talk like and act like the other cities. The children finally have a place to play. Thank you. This is long overdue, but it’s finally here.”

According to the mayor, the reopening was the result of a team effort by everyone from Malloy and the Recreation Department to Assistant Public Works Department Director Glen Vick and his staff to the Irvington public schools that allowed the high school’s Junior ROTC Honor Guard and a class of students from one of the elementary schools to participate in it.

“It’s always a pleasure to stand before what I consider to be my people,” said Vauss on Friday, Sept. 30. “If you’re not making your town better, then what are we doing? Your community is what you make it.”

Vauss said the reopening of the Gatling Center is a sign things are going well since he was sworn into office two years ago. He credited finance director Faheem Ra’Oof with being the linchpin of that progress, because he always finds a way to find the money to pay for the hard work that has gone into making the improvements to the town.

“This project was well over $300,000, so we had to find additional ways to find that money,” Vauss said. “When you are on a budget, you know how difficult it is to find any extra money to do other things, besides the bare necessities. None of this stuff comes easy, without raising your taxes.”

Ra’Oof agreed, saying he always does his best to rise to the occasion when the mayor asks him to find a way to make possible the seemingly impossible.

“I know you think the only hoops I can shoot is with dollars, but I’m looking to come shoot a couple of (basketball) hoops,” said Ra’Oof on Friday, Sept. 30. “The township is on the move. Today is a project we’re more excited about because we did it in-house. Everything you see here today was done by the staff, working together with Public Works and local businesses.”

Instead of going out to bid and spending the township’s limited resources on an outside contractor, Vauss said he decided to do it “in house,” using the DPW and a couple of local businesses.

“Irvington has been down for so long; now it’s time for us to get up,” said Vauss. “I see some of the guys that we used to play basketball in this gym and you can see the difference. It took a lot of work and I gave everyone until 11 a.m. today to get this done and they did it.”

Business administrator Musa Malik also credited the Recreation Department and DPW staff with refurbishing the Gatling Center, and thanked them for a job well done.

“I’ve had some good leaders in my life, but I have to say this mayor tops them all, because he doesn’t do anything for himself. I’m with him day in and day out and I’m excited about the things we have coming,” Malik said at the event.

According to Vauss and Malloy, upcoming programs for children, adults and senior citizens are on the agenda at the Gatling Center.

“We have more programs in this township than ever before,” said Vauss. “Everyone has this perception of Irvington for how it used to be, but this is the new Irvington. I’m honored and privileged be your mayor and I’m really excited about all the programs we’ve got coming up.”

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