Caribbean Group Finds Home in Dilapidated Erasmus Academy Building
Organization Will Use Most of Space; Existing Museum To Continue
By Linda Collins
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
FLATBUSH — It won’t be dilapidated for long. Members of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CACCI), and other organizations, plan to break ground on the major restoration of the deteriorating original Erasmus Academy in June.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz announced that with help from the city, the state and his own office, the original Erasmus Hall Academy building will become the permanent home for CACCI.
Markowitz, who made the announcement in his 11th State of the Borough speech last week, said the project will preserve part of the borough’s history while serving one of its thriving communities.
The building, located on the interior campus of Erasmus Hall High School on Flatbush Avenue, was built as a school in 1786-7 when Flatbush was its own town.
“This is a rare partnership, and we were working on this for over 10 years,” said Roy Hastick, Sr., president and founder of CACCI.
Currently based in 1,700 square feet at the Brooklyn Navy Yard where it has been for the past 15 years, CACCI has been seeking its own permanent home.
The academy, situated on the interior campus of Erasmus Hall High School, contains approximately 15,000 square feet and the organization will use most of it, sharing some of the space with a museum of education that had been there previously.
According to Hastick, plans include creating space for job skills and financial literacy training, a business services center, a cultural center, a technology area and a conference room.
“There will be an international component to promote trade between the U.S. and the Caribbean,” he said.
“I’ll be pledging a million dollars, and there is already a couple of million dollars that the State of New York has provided and additional money from the New York City Council,” Markowitz said last week. “And together we estimate that he’ll need about $7 million, but we’re well on our way to making the dream come true.”
Hastick told the Eagle that $2.7 million will come from the state’s Dormitory Construction Authority, $1 million from Markowitz (“who has been working very hard for us”), $1 million from the city’s Office of Management and Budget and $1 million from City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene.
“We are hoping for a longterm lease, 50 years or so,” he said, noting that the [city’s] Department of Education (DOE) will be the landlord.
“We feel that it’s important for not only Caribbean Americans but people in general, that young people be mentored and to make sure that we will partner with Erasmus Hall High School to teach new skills and serve as mentors to some of the students who are there,” said Hastick.
Preserving this site is also important to the school’s alumni association, which has been struggling for years to save the building.
Through the years the academy building has served as an administration office, a college counseling center and a museum, which highlighted its notable alumni, including Barbara Streisand, Eli Wallach and Beverly Sills.
“This is really a cause to celebrate,” said Markowitz.
The New York Landmarks Conservancy has also been involved since early 2010, when representatives toured the academy with members of the alumni association.
According to the conservancy’s website, the building had deteriorated so much that the DOE said it could not be used for classrooms and therefore was not eligible for DOE funding to make necessary repairs.
The conservancy commissioned a conditions study, completed by Cutsogeorge Tooman & Allen Architects in December, 2010, then met with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and his staff in February 2011 to apprise him of the plight of the Academy and to request financial assistance.
The Conservancy credits Markowitz not only for shepherding the review of this project through various city agencies, but for having the inspiration for an appropriate user for the site: CACCI.
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