Volume 74, Number 29 | November 24 - 30, 2004

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

Mollie Marcoux, General Manager of the Chelsea Piers Field House, got the idea for a daycare center after she and half a dozen colleagues became pregnant.

Babies are booming at Chelsea Piers

New daycare center offers field trips to the gym

By Angela Benfield

A baby boom among female employees at Chelsea Piers served as the catalyst for their newly opened day care center, which encourages the beginnings of an active lifestyle as well as providing child care and teaching the ABC’s.

“It was like there was something in the water up here,” says Erica Schietingerd, an employee in the public relations department, and mother of Will, 10 months old. “You had all these people working that were pregnant, and we were all due between June and January. One week we had three babies born,” she said.

Within the span of a few weeks, five women, employed in different departments at the sports complex, announced that they were pregnant. It didn’t take long for the general manager of the field house, Mollie Marcoux, to figure out that they could have a shortage of staff — and one way to keep them was to add a childcare facility. Especially since she was one of the expectant mothers.

“It just was this big pregnancy thing last year,” says Mollie, first time mother of 16-month-old Maddie. “I was thinking of how I was going to manage care (for her daughter), and on top of that, as a business, we were thinking of how we could focus on kids under three, so it was all happening at the same time,” she said.

“That probably kicked something up in Mollie’s head that we’ve got all these prospective clients right here,” says Erica.

Originally, the plan was to make a space in the toddler gym into a small day care center available only to employees — as a benefit, and an incentive for them to stay.

“But as I started doing research on it, I found there was a real need in the city for affordable, high-end child care,” said Marcoux, who started working at Chelsea Piers in the marketing department in 1995, and ran the first summer camp program there. “It wasn’t very long before we knew we could also open this to other people — because we have so many families down here already.”

With the idea to have a larger facility, came the need to build a bigger space.

“We realized we had so much open space going up, so we could build a mezzanine. We hired an architect and we were on our way,” said Marcoux. The center was built in the field house over the toddler gym. It has four separate rooms; one for babies, one for toddlers, one for three years and older, and a napping room. All the rooms (except the nap room) have large windows facing northwest overlooking the Hudson River.

Since it is located in the complex, the children use some of the other facilities and programs available at Chelsea Piers during their day.

“The kids who are in childcare have a unique opportunity to be involved in all the programs down here; they take field trips, for example, to the toddler adventure center — which is great to develop their motor skills,” said Marcoux. “We also have those dance studios and sometimes they play soccer in there. They have access right downstairs and they can go as much as they want.”

Marcoux also feels that strolling through the Chelsea Piers environment is more adventurous to the baby-set than a typical walk through the city streets. “The children have this whole beautiful complex; we have one of those six-man strollers and they take walks outside; the kids can look at the boats, people hitting golf balls; they’re right here on the water,” said Marcoux.

Schietingerd concurs, “They love watching people figure skate at Sky Rink. The more he [Will] sees and hears, the better developed I think he’ll be.”

The opportunity for their children to have a stimulating day is not the only reason that Marcoux and Schietingerd are happy to have the day care center available where they work.

“I think the most important thing is how trained, supportive and loving the staff is, and I think we hit gold,” says Marcoux of the director of the day care center, Nicole James.

Glenn Anderson, an NHL Hall of Famer who teaches hockey at Sky Rink, agrees. His daughter is enrolled at the center, too, and he feels that James does a wonderful job of taking care of his most prized possession.

“The attention is great,” he says.

James has 14 years experience teaching pre-school through 3rd grade in Virginia, where she is from. She moved to New York last winter after her husband was transferred, and is delighted with her new position at Chelsea Piers. “This is what I really wanted to do next,” said James.

The day care center is opening to the general public later this month, but the plans to expand services for five year-olds and under at Chelsea Piers is just beginning.

“We’re hoping to open up a full pre-school in September of next year,” said Marcoux.

For information on the Chelsea Piers Day Care Center, contact Nicole James at 212-336-6500 x6573.

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