NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In a year filled with many hardships and closures, there was some welcome news Thursday. A new YMCA has officially opened in the Bronx, with the help of a former star basketball player.

Knicks legend John Starks showed a group of kids how to dribble, pass and shoot, but his biggest move was to help open the first new YMCA in the borough in 30 years, a facility he said is key to keeping teens and young adults focused on fitness and education.

“I know, for me, it was very important. At a young age, whenever you can keep kids active and keep them in a positive environment. Obviously the Y, I grew up in the Y, and so I know how important a facility is like this,” Starks said.

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The 50,000 square-foot facility is built on three acres in the Edenwald neighborhood, the first of two YMCA centers that will open this fall in the Bronx.

“This community has been asking for a center like this for decades, since I was a little boy,” state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said.

The other facility is set to open in October in the central Bronx. The combined cost of both is $100 million.

“Really focused on empowering youth, improving health and strengthening community,” said Sharon Greenberger, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York.

Local leaders say there has been a critical need for more community services in a borough suffering from gun violence and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Provide a safe haven so that our youth can feel like there’s something better out there than joining a gang or handling their disputes in a violent fashion,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said.

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Officials said the facility was built on teamwork, and is a key to recovery in the Bronx after a challenging 18 months.

There’s something for everyone — cooking lessons, a community garden, two indoor pools, a gym, and, of course, a basketball court.

“It feels good because I haven’t been to a court like this in a long time,” a boy named Elias said.

“I’m actually happy to go in the pool, but the basketball court is kind of good,” another kid said.

Memberships start at $46 a month for kids and seniors, $56 for adults. There is also financial assistance for those who can’t afford the cost.

The “Y” is now open to the public seven days a week, Monday-Friday from 6:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., and weekends from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Natalie Duddridge