Last Thursday, elected officials and resident association leaders announced that the city budget will allocate nearly $4.5 million to permanently reopen and renovate the center.
The City Council budgeted $947,000 for the project, which includes Councilman Stephen Levin’s previous allocation of $475,000 through participatory budgeting in 2014. The de Blasio administration, through NYCHA, committed $3.5 million for the rehab.
“We know that community centers are one of the backbones of our communities and neighborhoods,” said Speaker Corey Johnson. “We need them for after school programs, senior gatherings, socializing and so much more.
“When it’s hot outside, we need these community centers to go to for cooling centers,” he added.
In addition to providing cultural, artistic and educational programs, the community center will offer youth programming through the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD)’s Cornerstone Program.
While the timeline of the renovation and reopening is unclear –– NYCHA will execute the funding –– the City Council allocated $50,000 for programming while construction takes place.
“We’re here to make good on a promise that the city made to residents,” said Levin, who noted that the commitment was made a decade ago.
Johnson credited the organizing efforts of tenants and association leaders, who lobbied lawmakers, held rallies, garnered media attention and circulated petitions.
“You never ever gave up, not even when 14 years ago the center was shuttered,” the speaker said. “You showed that community organizing and neighborhood activism is still alive and well in New York City.”
In addition to reopening the Gowanus site, the city budget also funded the $2.5 million renovation and expansion of the Wyckoff Gardens Community Center.
It currently offers after-school programming and senior services, but with the upgrades, it will have a new kitchen and classrooms for skills and job training.
Charlene Nimmons, former president of the Wyckoff Gardens Resident Association, recalled the years-long efforts to advocate for the funding, including packing a church with residents to show how much support there was for the project.
“We were active, we were involved,” she said. “We’re building power to organize for change.”
“These things happen when people learn to work together,” added Ed Tyre, president of the Gowanus Resident Association. “Everybody has to be involved.”
Other neighborhood advocates, while happy about the funding, wanted more details about the specifics of the project. They vowed to stay vigilant until the renovations take place.
“We need to know the dates,” said Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuels, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Public Housing, “and that the residents are part of the process every step of the way.”