Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Crown Heights Links - Love from Marty

- The Daily News reports that Borough President (and Crown Heights-born) Marty Markowitz plans to promise $1 million from his capital budget in a speech tonight to convert the notorious Bedford-Atlantic Armory into a neighborhood rec center modeled on the recently-opened Park Slope Armory (Markowitz also wants to target the Sumner Armory in Bed-Stuy). Councilwoman Tish James, who has been a vocal supporter of such a plan for some time now, has said she can raise another $10 million from local, city, state, and federal funds for the project, which the Department of Homeless Services estimates would cost $20 million in total.

Even if the rec center project goes through, the city is still planning to open an intake center in the Armory, a project that Crown Heights Revitalization Movement founder Sandy Taggart has said "cannot co-exist" with a rec center. What do you think? The city, if it goes through with the plan, is doubtless hoping a rec center would sweeten the deal and get local residents to drop their opposition to the intake center, but would it be worth it?

Update: I spent an evening thinking about this, and while the successful Armory Track and Field Center and the Park Slope Armory share their buildings with shelters, the Bedford-Atlantic Armory is a different beast. As the comment below notes, people steer clear of the Armory now with good reason, and the intake project plan would only increase the numbers of people going to and from the site. I would love to have an a great recreation center with all the amenities Markowitz describes (workout gyms, indoor track, art galleries, etc), but for expensive projects like this to succeed, they have to draw significant numbers, and I don't see that happening right now. Would parents send their kids to the Armory? Would single women work out there during the evening if it meant walking home alone? Unless the city really committed to making neighborhood residents feel safe and secure in the presence of increase inflow (something the Bloomberg administration has failed to do so far), I could see a pristine rec center sitting underused and idle while a busy intake center operates below.

- The Crow Hill Community Association is teaming up with local high school students to create the Crown Heights Oral History Project, who are devleoping a blog as part of their project. Check it out.

- There are some wackos in Crown Heights. Surprise, surprise.


  1. I live kind of far down the block from the Armory, yet I still get men at all hours of the night and day coming at me for change all the time. They are not the local's, who I know. Some of them get nasty too. And they often do not take no for an answer and try to unload my car, or insist on doing a chore etc...I am certain these are men that wander around the area after they leave that place. Not fair that NYC wants to use the Brooklyn Armory as a dumping ground, and that is what it is. It isn't a jail, so after these guys eat and bathe what does the Mayor think they are going to do? Most of them are in that position for a good reason...Drugs or Mental Illness. Very few of them are just down on thier luck. So when they want to, they wander around the area hitting up people like me who now have to pony up some cash for them in fear of retribution to my car and property.

  2. Two weeks ago Senator Montgomery hosted a meeting at the Armory with NYC Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Robert Hess and NYS Office of Temporary Disability Assistance Commissioner Elizabeth Berlin. The meeting was to discuss the current state of homeless services in the 18th District and their effects on the folks living in the areas around the shelters.

    At this meeting Commissioner Hess said that plans to turn the Armory into the major processing unit for men entering the shelter system had been permanently scrapped. The major entry processing center will remain in Manhattan. However, since over 30% of shelter residents come from Brooklyn the Armory is planned to serve as a much smaller, secondary processing center to serve the homeless of Brookyn.

    The Senator took the two Commissioners on an unplanned tour of the Armory so they could all see how things actually are working there. In the major top floor space where residents can spend part of the day there was pretty frank conversation between the Commissioners and the residents about conditions and what might be done. It was eye-opening on several fronts, including the fact that some of the men there didn't know that medical and mental health services were available at the Armory already.

    The comment from Anonymous, above, is accurate in saying that many of the folks (but by no means all!) in the shelter system have mental problems. When a person is homeless it's pretty easy to go off your meds. The Senator and the 2 Commissioners have put together plans that will locate public mental health services in the shelters as well as supplement these public services with not for profit mental health organizations.

    The Armory has gone through some pretty dark days, but Commissioner Hess has done a remarkable job of straightening things around. Once it sheltered upwards of 1,000 men per night; maximum capacity is now 325. Medical services are on site. Mental health services are being strengthened. And he has a strong commitment to seeing that the Armory become a GOOD neighbor in the community. We all have to help DHS keep that focus, especially with funds disappearing and the need for homeless services growing.

    For more information and to share ideas please email the Senator's office at
    (Please note the email address spelling! It's NOT "Montgomery@senate.etc.etc." The R and Y aren't on the first part. )You can also use a contact form from the web site.