Posted by Steve Lettau on Oct 24, 2019

By Bryan Smith - The Rotarian November 2019

You hear the miracle before you see it. Shouts, laughter, the “thump!” “ping!” of bouncing basketballs colliding with a chain-link fence. The pounding of running feet, the shrill peal of whistles, the cries of encouragement.

“Nice job.”

“Pass and go.”

“You got this!”

Thump! Ping! Thump! Ping!

Only then do you glimpse the court, the long rectangle of brilliant blue and orange — the colors of the NBA’s New York Knicks — at Morningside Avenue and High Street in Yonkers, New York. Its surface glimmers like sheet cake in the bright sun.

And finally, the kids: short, tall, skinny, plump. They wear glasses and pigtails, silver-mesh headbands and multicolored T-shirts. They joke and smile as they run up and down the immaculate court, its regulation length bracketed at each end with an NBA-quality breakaway backboard. It’s as if they had been playing here their entire childhood.

Yet four years ago, the possibility that this picture-book basketball court might one day exist in a corner of Yonkers must have seemed as remote as the spires of downtown Manhattan, visible through the early summer haze some 15 miles south. Even a few months ago, the basketball court here at John Barton Memorial Park was a buckled concrete mess of cracks and pebbles and broken glass, splotched with clumps of sprouting grass and littered with discarded drug paraphernalia. During downpours, the rain would pool into a small lake, which left a coating of dirt and debris as it dried.