Bedford Armory Revitalization Plans Draws Large Crowd and Ideas

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The residents of Crown Heights and surrounding neighborhoods packed the auditorium at Medgar Evers College for a town hall meeting to discuss revitalization plans for the defunct Bedford Armory in Crown Heights.
The event, which took place from 6 to 9 pm on Jan. 9, offered an open house at the armory preceding the meeting.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Councilwoman Letitia James moderated the discussion.
Other community leaders including former Congressman Major Owens, parishioners and longtime Brooklyn residents alike gave suggestions as to how the armory would benefit the immediate community.
“This is an exciting process that we’re undertaking,” said James. “Bedford Armory offers promise and possibility where people can go to socialize and exercise. No one will be turned away.”
Built between 1903 and 1907, the armory which is located at 1579 Bedford Avenue, is currently occupied by the National Guard. The total space is 150,000 square feet with most of it comprised of administrative offices.
While the project is still in its beginning stages, planners are figuring out the next steps in what will be a long process. With the success of the Park Slope Armory, they hope that experience will expedite the revitalization efforts on Bedford Avenue. Many neighbors were in full support for the armory, seeing it as an outlet for the youths to have when other after-school programs have been slashed. One by one, each person shared their suggestions and ideas as to how the century-old building can house recreational space and a place where anyone can learn a trade such as cooking or shop classes.
After the closing of the Empire Roller Skating Rink, some suggested that a rink can be easily housed there along with computer labs and a snack bar.
“I’m still concerned because I see a lot of our young people in the community just standing around at all times of the day,” said Velta Simmons, a graduate of Medgar Evers.
While she didn’t agree wholeheartedly about putting a skating rink in the armory, she knows that other programs will greatly benefit the younger generation.
“We have students from Medgar Evers College who have come up with their own blueprint plan for the armory. We submitted a draft directly to Albany back in February 2011. We want people from the community to be directly involved in this project,” said Eric Daniels, assistant to Major Owens and longtime Crown Heights resident. “I know the armory will benefit the neighborhood greatly especially with our youths and senior citizens. We have such a high rate of obesity and diabetes in Brooklyn and I feel that if there’s a fitness center put in place of the armory then it may alleviate these conditions.”
Additional suggestions and thoughts for the armory can be sent via e-mail to: bkarmoryproject@gmail.com.

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