Healthy Kids Day at the Eighth Avenue Armory
The Park Slope YMCA will open its doors to the community this weekend for its annual celebration of Healthy Kids Day, an event for kids and adults alike that teaches good health and the importance of fitness and sports.
Since opening in 2010, the YMCA at the Eighth Avenue Armory has sought to serve the local community with classes, health advocacy and a large sports facility. The space’s directors have, over the past two years, tried to turn the Y into a neighborhood institution in Park Slope, holding courses on computers, English as a second language, and citizenship prep for new immigrants to the U.S.
“This space has proven to be much more than a gym,” said Erika Rautenstrauch, one of the Y’s directors. “The Park Slope and greater community gather here every day.”
The Y is housed in the Eighth Avenue Armory at 15th Street, and was built in 1895 as a home for the 14th Regiment of the National Guard, at a time when Brooklyn was rife with riots and unrest. Soldiers were quartered there and in other armories throughout New York to quell riots, though in a few cases the buildings themselves ended up ransacked.
Military use of the armory tapered off in the 1930s. Later that decade, an indoor baseball league was created, with games happening inside the armory. But Brooklyn’s armories remained largely unused, except as venues for sporting events, roller skating and community meetings.
The Dodgers even practiced in the Eighth Avenue Armory during a particularly rainy season in ’56, according to area historian Tom Miskel, who also maintains a small military museum inside the armory.
In the 1990s the city started building homeless shelters within many of Brooklyn’s unused armories. The Park Slope Women’s Shelter, also housed in the Eighth Avenue Armory, has maintained a 70-bed shelter for mentally-ill and substance-abusing women since opening in 1996.
Since its military days, the Eighth Avenue Armory has served Brooklyn in different ways — as a meeting space, as a shelter, as a home for the Dodgers and now as an athletic facility and community center.
Saturday’s Healthy Kids Day events will be an opportunity for the Y to open its doors, for free, to the community. There will be a basketball clinic, zumba, rock climbing, bounce houses and an open house of the Y’s facilities.
“We have all of these great programs that help kids build confidence that they’ll take outside of the classes,” said Megan King, a spokesperson for the Park Slope YMCA. “And adults as well.”
Healthy Kids Day at the Park Slope YMCA will run from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. on Saturday, April 28.
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