For over a century, the Atlantic Armory Shelter at 1579 Bedford Avenue has been an iconic part of the Crown Heights landscape.
Originally used to store horses and military equipment, the building fell into disrepair during recent decades, but was targeted as a site for a new community center by the Mayor’s Office and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).
Those redevelopment dreams became a reality this past week when Mayor Bill de Blasio and community leaders cut the ribbon on the Major R. Owens Health & Wellness Community Center, a state-of-the-art new facility housed within the old armory.
Named after the former Brooklyn congressman, the new 60,000-square-foot center comes equipped with a 25-meter, six-lane competitive swimming pool, basketball courts, and multi-purpose court. The center also includes the Betty Carter Auditorium for the Arts (BCAA) and has a 25,000-square-foot health center run by Brooklyn Plaza Medical Center.
“Investing in our people and communities, especially in ones that have often been overlooked, is how we build a recovery for all of us,” said de Blasio. “The Major R. Owens Health & Wellness Community Center will provide New Yorkers a place to thrive and grow for generations to come.”
The new center is also meant to honor the civic legacy of Owens, a point that NYCEDC president and CEO Rachel Loeb acknowledged during her remarks.
“The Major R. Owens Health & Wellness Center is rooted in community,” Loeb said. “NYCEDC and our partners worked hard to deliver a recreational center that captured former Congressman Major Owens’ vision, a place where people of all ages, all walks of life, and from different communities could come together and have access to critical services and programming that open doors to opportunity.”
“Congressman Major Owens had a vision for Central Brooklyn, and this new community resource makes real one part of that vision,” added his son, Chris Owens, “providing Central Brooklyn’s communities with the world-class recreational and educational resources they deserve.”
When it was originally announced, the plan was criticized for potentially increasing gentrification in the neighborhood. In response, the Mayor’s Office and NYCEDC included office space for local nonprofits in the final plan.
Current nonprofit tenants at the center include Brooklyn Pride, Digital Girl, Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy, and the Boys Club of New York.
“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to expand into Crown Heights and develop new partnerships and activities that promote health and wellness for LGBTQ+ Brooklynites,” said Brooklyn Pride CEO Floyd Rumohr. “We are excited to learn what will best serve the community, whether that’s fitness courses presented in tandem with our tenant neighbors, recovery programs, peer-led support groups, sexual wellness and STI prevention, or connecting our community with culturally appropriate health services.”