New York, NY – Today, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Committee on General Welfare Chair Stephen Levin, Committee on Public Housing Chair Alicka Ampry-Samuel, and Council Member Brad Lander, joined community leaders, tenant associations, local organizations, advocates and NYCHA residents to announce that the City’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget includes funding to reopen the Gowanus Houses Community Center. Additionally, Speaker Johnson and Council Member Levin also unveiled capital funding in Fiscal Year 2020 budget for the expansion and renovation of the NYCHA Wyckoff Gardens Community Center, located in Gowanus.
The Gowanus Center has been closed for 14 years, except for some senior service programming. It will be fully renovated and reopened to provide residents of the Gowanus Houses with cultural, artistic and educational initiatives, as well as youth programming through the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) Cornerstone Program. This is a major win for the community, which has been calling for the reopening of this center for more than a decade.
The reopening and renovation is possible in large part thanks to the City Council’s allocation of $947,000 in budget funds for the Center and surrounding area, including Council Member Levin’s previous allocation of $475,000 for the renovation project through Participatory Budgeting in 2014, after community members chose to fund upgrades for the center. Additionally, the de Blasio administration made a commitment of $3.5 million through NYCHA funding for the rehabilitation of the site.
Wyckoff Gardens Community Center is being renovated through $2.5 million in Council funding for FY20, which is in addition to $2.4 million previously allocated to the Center and surrounding area.
Currently, the Wyckoff Gardens Houses Community Center currently offers after-school youth programming and senior services. Once the expansion and renovations are completed, the space will have a new kitchen and classrooms for further skills and job trainings.
Once the renovation to permanently reopen the Gowanus Community Center is completed, community members, advocates, NYCHA and Council Member Levin’s office will determine what services will be provided at the site, as well as continuing serving the seniors that currently use the center. In the meantime, the Council has dedicated $50,000 this year to provide additional programming at the site while the renovations take place.
“These community centers are not only vital for NYCHA residents, but also for the entire neighborhood. These spaces are places where neighbors meet to socialize, to participate in cultural and educational activities, to share their experiences. For years, residents and advocates demanded the permanent reopening of the Gowanus Houses Community Center, which has been only offering limited senior centers. I applaud Council Member Levin, the advocates and the neighbors who tirelessly fought hard for the reopening of this center and the expansion of the Wyckoff Garden Community Center to provide more and better services,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
“Today is an exciting day in Brooklyn as we announce funding in this year’s budget for the long awaited expansion and renovation of the Gowanus and Wyckoff Gardens Community Centers,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “Community centers are a critical resource for young and old alike and provide after-school activities, arts programming, and job skills training. At Wyckoff we will be adding classrooms and a new kitchen, and Gowanus will finally have an updated and modernized center that is able to serve a new generation. None of this would have been possible without the leadership and tireless advocacy of the community. Thank you to residents of Wyckoff Gardens and Gowanus Houses, members of FUREE and the Fifth Avenue Committee, and the support of so many others who made today happen. Thank you also to the Speaker, Corey Johnson and Mayor Bill de Blasio for guaranteeing that the residents of Gowanus will finally get the community centers they deserve.”
“I’m grateful to Council Member Levin and the many tireless residents and advocates who led this years-long effort to bring much-needed investment to the Wyckoff Gardens and Gowanus Community Centers, including championing this project during participatory budgeting, turning the Gowanus rezoning process into an opportunity to highlight the need, and collaborating with us on the Making Gowanus arts forum to help bring about a public commitment to reinvigorate this critical community asset. The expansion of the Wyckoff Gardens Community Center and the renovation and permanent reopening of the Gowanus Community Center will bring new opportunities for young people to socialize, learn and gain skills, and bring back long over-due services that the community deserves. I’m also proud to say that, thanks to the Speaker’s office, we are able to allocate $50,000 for programming, tutoring, and recreational activities for residents during the time that it will take to reopen the Gowanus Community Center so that the community can start accessing these services right away,” said Council Member Brad Lander.
“Our residents deserve community centers within their neighborhoods where they can thrive, and ensuring their maintenance is part of the Authority’s commitment to them,” said NYCHA General Manager Vito Mustaciuolo. “We’re grateful to Speaker Johnson, Council Member Levin, and Mayor de Blasio for funding critical repairs to the Gowanus and Wyckoff Gardens community centers that provide vital services to our residents and their families.”
“With the commitment of the Administration and support of Speaker Johnson, Council Member Levin and the entire City Council, upgrades to the Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens Community Centers are a step closer to reality. Wyckoff Gardens improvements will enhance the existing Cornerstone program funded by DYCD, and we look forward to the completion of Gowanus renovations so that we can work with NYCHA to identify a provider and get resident feedback on program services that would most benefit their community,” said DYCD Commissioner Bill Chong.
“Funding long overdue renovations in order to fully reopen the Gowanus and Wyckoff Community Centers will bring expanded community programming spaces for NYCHA seniors and youth, offering critical job training and skill development for our neighbors. The Gowanus and Wyckoff residents association presidents, Ed Tyre and Valerie Bell, have both been instrumental in keeping my office apprised of the needs for each development and modern, environmentally sound community centers are at the top of their lists. I’m proud these investments are being made in our community and I applaud Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Johnson, Council Member Levin and the City Council for taking these steps,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez.
“The Community Centers in NYCHA developments have always been vital in providing space for programming, events and services for residents. I am so glad to see the City investing real money in the Gowanus and Wyckoff Gardens community spaces in my district. These renovations will have a tangible impact on my constituents and I hope signal a renewed commitment to NYCHA residents,” said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery.
“I am thrilled that the City has provided this vital funding to make capital improvements at the Wyckoff Gardens and Gowanus Houses Community Centers. This will ensure that residents have a vibrant place to come together to celebrate community and enjoy quality programming and services. Wyckoff residents have long advocated for an expansion to their community center, while Gowanus residents have fought hard to re-open their center. I want to thank Speaker Johnson and Council Member Levin for this funding that will greatly benefit the community,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.
“Six year ago the Community voted for money to renovate the Gowanus Community Center in Participatory Budgeting. Residents of Warren St, Wyckoff Gardens and Gowanus Houses and the surrounding community all had their voices heard. Now with the funding for both community centers finally completely allocated we will be able to have our elders and our young people have a place of their own instead of being without. Thank you very much to the City Council and the Mayor,” said Joe Anne Brown, Warren St. Houses resident and member of Friends of Thomas Greene Park.
“As a lifelong resident of Wyckoff Gardens we have relied on the community center to provide services to our community. It has been a fixture of the development for generations. Since 2003 we have been advocating for renovations and an expansion so it can serve future generations with even more services. We are happy today to finally have won that fight and that we can announce the funding had been secured. Thank you to Council Member Levin and Speaker Johnson for working with us to make this happen,” said Valerie Bell, Wyckoff Gardens resident and Resident Association President.
“The Gowanus Community Center served our residents for years providing classes, after school activities and a place to socialize for all our residents. It’s been closed for 14 years which has been way to long and during which time our community has suffered. Now that the community’s voice has been heard and the funding has been allocated to renovate it and eventually reopen it we will once again have a center that the residents deserve. Thank you to everyone who made that happen,” said Ed Tyre and Theresa Davis, residents of Gowanus Houses and President and Vice President, Gowanus Houses Resident Association.
“Brooklyn Community Board 6 has supported, and advocated for, the proper funding of these two community centers and it’s great to see it become a reality,” said Michael Racioppo, District Manager Brooklyn Community Board 6.
“This has been a long battle! A win for the residents of public housing! When one wins, we all win. It shows it can be done by being persistent and putting everything in writing. Telephone calls are nice, however if you don’t write it down it didn’t happen. As the resident association President from 2003-2015, our team (Wyckoff Gardens Resident Association Board Members & Residents) worked together and raised over $2 million dollars and that legacy continues with a joint partnership with our new board led by President Valerie Bell. A big thank you to Speaker Corey Johnson and Council member Steve Levin for investing into our communities,” said Charlene Nimmons, former President of Wyckoff Gardens Resident Association and CEO and Founder of Public Housing Communities Inc. Believe in your DREAMS!
“The Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice is pleased to see the funding allocations needed to reopen the Gowanus Houses community center. We want to thank the City Council and the Mayor for securing the 4 million dollars desperately needed to reopen the Gowanus community center as well as the 4.3 million for the expansion of the Wyckoff Gardens Community Center. As a public housing resident and a member the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice we have fought for the betterment of NYCHA residents and the Gowanus community as a whole. This commitment today is another step towards fulfilling the promise made to the residents but our coalition must not stop until the construction is completed and the programming reflects the naturally occurring cultural richness that each public housing community possesses. We urge the city to move forward with the projects as quickly as possible! We will continue to work as advocates for our community of local public housing and the necessary environmental remediation that are underway. These centers at Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens will serve as hubs to inform and organize residents to advocate for themselves,” said Karen Blondel, FAC organizer, member of the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice (GNCJ).
“Community centers, like Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens community centers, are the heart and soul of their neighborhoods. These community hubs are where people connect across generations, share their cultures, celebrate, or respond to a crisis. People care so much about the Gowanus Community Center that they voted for the renovations during the Participatory Budgeting process for much needed capital improvements. After residents’ long fight for the commitment of these resources, especially toward the permanent reopening of the Gowanus Houses Community Center, we are very happy to hear that additional funding has been provided by the New York City Council. We hope that these critical renovations can happen soon so these important public spaces can fully realize their full potential as community resources,” said Caron Atlas, Arts & Democracy and Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts NY.