After decade of neglect, Gowanus residents demand city reopen community center

October 4, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Gowanus Houses residents rallied on Tuesday to draw attention to the need to reopen their community center. Shown center: Councilmember Stephen Levin. Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Stephen Levin
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After waiting for 10 years, Gowanus residents are demanding that the city fulfill its commitment to reopen the Gowanus Houses Community Center, once a hub for the arts, a community gathering place and an educational and vocational resource.

Neighbors, community leaders and officials rallied on Tuesday to draw attention to the need for the long-neglected center.

The timing is right to get something done about the center now, they say. While the city moves slowly ahead with a plan to rezone Gowanus, the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice (GNCJ) has been working to draw attention to the issues public housing residents are dealing with.

With so much public and private investment happening in the area, “it is unconscionable that another generation of families, comprising the largest group of NYCHA residents in the neighborhood, will grow up without a community center and its needed amenities to nourish and flourish within the revitalization of Gowanus,” GNCJ said in a statement.

GNCJ was formed by the Fifth Avenue Committee, a long-standing not-for-profit community development corporation in Gowanus. Also pushing to reopen the community center are Gowanus All-Arts Forum, led by Imani Gayle Gillison, director of Theater of the Liberated, and Making Gowanus, “an initiative to advocate for greater access to arts and cultural resources for public housing (NYCHA) residents in Gowanus.

Reopening the center “has been a rallying call in the neighborhood for a decade, and now is the time to bring it back,” Councilmember Brad Lander said in a statement on Tuesday. “It is essential that, as part of the city’s effort to plan for the future of Gowanus, we make sorely overdue investments in the three public housing developments nearest to the polluted Gowanus Canal.”

“Reopening the center’s doors was a top priority during participatory budgeting, then again in the Bridging Gowanus community planning process, and now in the Gowanus PLACES study,” he added.

Councilmember Stephen Levin said that the Participatory Budgeting campaign to repair the center brought neighbors together.

“There is $475,000 in PB funds to repair the center, earned through an engaging and democratic process that will not be put to use until the city fulfills its commitment to open the center,” he said in a statement.

Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon said that many beloved programs, such as the Gowanus in Unity tutoring program, have been uprooted and are sorely missed.

“For us who live on the premises, the Gowanus Houses Community Center is not only here for recreation,” Gayle Gillison said in a statement. “We want to reopen and restore it as our hub for elder engagement, artistic collaboration, educational awareness, holistic medicine, cultural upliftment, veteran support, youth empowerment, leadership development and neighborhood advancement.”


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