BP MARKOWITZ, NYU WAGNER CAPSTONE TEAM RELEASE REPORT ON POTENTIAL USES FOR BEDFORD-UNION ARMORY REDEVELOPMENT
Ideas for Crown Heights armory include community center, recreation, sports complex, entertainment venue, private development
On Tuesday, June 26, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz released the findings of the NYU Wagner Capstone team studying potential community uses for the historic Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights. Among the primary suggestions are a Drill Hall multipurpose community recreation center, sports-specific complex or event/entertainment venue, a community center in the Head House, and the potential for limited revenue-generating private development at the site. The report is merely a first step—a vision of what could be—in what has been a community-driven process to redevelop the Armory. The full report of The Bedford-Union Armory: Vision of a Neighborhood Anchor can be viewed or downloaded at www.brooklyn-usa.org.
A public meeting and open house was held in January, during which community input was gathered; additional town halls will be scheduled. Among the determinations made by the Capstone team: that the Armory would require a primary operator; programming should be flexible, financially sustainable, balanced and affordable to secure the Armory as a long-term community resource; and the Armory must be a safe, welcoming space for the entire community. In order to be financially sustainable, the facility’s operation may benefit from public-private partnerships and redevelopment opportunities for underused parts of the Armory property outside of the Drill Hall and Head House.
The Capstone team also recommended that interim steps be taken to utilize the Armory for temporary uses—such as film production and greenmarkets—that require minimal improvements. It is also suggested that the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office establish a task force to continue redevelopment possibilities for the Armory.
“As I first proposed in my 2009 State of the Borough Address at the beautiful Park Slope Armory, there is absolutely no reason why the residents of Crown Heights should not have the very same community amenities as those available in Park Slope and other neighborhoods,” said BP Markowitz. “Kudos to the NYU Wagner Capstone team for all of its hard work in preparing this report of what is possible, and to the residents and other stakeholders who came out to our public meeting and open house and used social media to express their opinions and recommendations. I was proud to support this project with capital funds and look forward to working with the City, elected officials, community boards, and residents in the area surrounding the Bedford-Union Armory as we move forward in transforming this relic from Brooklyn’s past into a vibrant community center for the future.”
Drill Hall suggestions
- Multipurpose community recreation center. Would address obesity and other health issues, inadequate community services, and lack of access to physical recreation by providing gym facilities, exercise classes, basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer, badminton, street hockey, tennis, track and field, and classroom and arts spaces.
- Sports-specific complex. A for-profit recreation space that would serve as a catalyst for economic development through job creation, business attraction and revenue generation to operate the facility. Potential uses include a roller skating or roller derby rink, rock climbing gym, and skateboarding and BMX parks.
- Event/entertainment venue. A revenue-generating facility that could support more community-focused services housed in the Head House portion of the Armory. Uses could include visual art exhibitions, musical or theatrical performances, movie production, career and job fairs, conventions, trade shows, greenmarket, and art and flea markets.
Head House suggestions
- Youth services. Examples: mentoring, afterschool programs.
- Senior services. Senior exercise, health and wellness counseling, knitting, cooking, and music.
- Workforce development services. Job training and placement.
- Community services. Community kitchen, work share, computer and multimedia facility.
- Community arts programming. Art, music, theater, dance, gallery space.
- Day care. Nearly one third of family households within a mile of the Armory are headed by single parents.
- Other considerations. Short-term and long-term event rentals, graduations, town hall meetings, wireless Internet hub, solar power production, green roofs, rainwater harvesting, sliding scale pricing for community programs and services.
Parking/maintenance facility suggestions
- Parking facility is a one-story extension added many years after original construction and, with zoning changes, could be redeveloped into new residential construction creating an additional revenue source for the project.
Although the Bedford-Atlantic Armory could conceivably serve residents beyond the immediate area, the 150,000 Brooklynites who reside within one mile of the Armory could see the most dramatic benefits. Nearly a third of all the households have children under 18, close to half of the families are headed by a single mother and a quarter of the households have a resident over the age of 65—all populations that would be served by the facility. Annual household income in the region is more than 12 percent below the borough median, and 22 percent of the overall population and a third of children live below the poverty line. Disconnected youth—defined as those between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor the workforce—represents a significant portion of the local population, and issues of crime and limited access to year-round recreation and exercise spaces are also present.
“The redevelopment of the Bedford Armory into a community center could not have been started at a better time,” said Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke. “I support Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and the researchers who have been commissioned to explore the possible transformation of the Armory into a facility that will encourage healthy lifestyles, safe and productive afterschool activities for our children, and serve as a resource for local organizations.”
“I commend Borough President Marty Markowitz for his leadership with the redevelopment of the Bedford Armory and the NYU Capstone team for providing their report outlining suggestions for the Armory,” said State Senator Eric Adams. “I look forward to the transformation of the Armory into a safe and welcoming state-of-the-art facility that will provide much needed community services for the residents of Crown Heights and the surrounding neighborhoods. With the continued support of Borough President Markowitz, elected officials who represent the area, community boards and residents, the Bedford Armory will be a resource for everyone.”
“This report confirms what I and so many others have believed all along; the Bedford-Union Armory should be turned into a multi-purpose recreational center that will benefit our entire community, from our children to our seniors,” said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries. “It is these sort of public-private partnerships that will bring the economic growth Brooklyn desperately needs and help meet the needs of our communities. I applaud Borough President Markowitz for his leadership in this endeavor.”
“Our community needs and deserves a community recreation center that will provide and address many issues that affect our youth and their families in Crown Heights,” said New York City Council Member Letitia James. “I look forward to working with the City, elected officials, Community Boards 8 and 9, and residents in the area surrounding the Bedford-Union Armory.”
“As the longtime Chairman of Community Board 9, I am excited that proposals and ideas for the use of the Bedford-Union Armory are being explored at this time,” said Community Board 9 Chair Rabbi Jacob Goldstein. “This massive building has unlimited potential for our community. Community District 9 currently has no suitable space that can house a recreation center for our youth, a dynamic multi-purpose center for our senior citizens, nor a place that can be used by the entire community for communal events. I want to thank the Borough President and his team for working with the community to envision a bold new view for the future.”
“NYU Wagner is very pleased that a team of students from our Capstone Program—a centerpiece of our curriculum—received an opportunity to examine the Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment project,” said Tyra Liebmann, Associate Dean for Student Affairs at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University (NYU Wagner). “We look forward to seeing how the input of the Capstone team and of others contributes to the ultimate success of this critically important community plan.”
Construction on the Bedford-Union Armory at 1579 Bedford Avenue began in 1903 and was completed in 1907. The Armory served as home for Squadron C; the 1st Regiment of Cavalry; the 101st Cavalry Division; Headquarters and Headquarters Troop Company A, 101st AR; and the 42nd Supply and Transfer Station before changes in military training and technology lessened the National Guard’s need for cavalry units and their armories. In recent years, the Bedford-Union Armory has been used for movie production, civic functions and the collection and distribution of emergency supplies in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
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