Bedford Union Armory to be turned into community center

Gov. Andrew Cuomo address pre-Carnival Breakfast.
Photo by Nelson A. KIng

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Labor Day that he plans to turn the Bedford Union Armory in Crown Heights, Brooklyn into a community and recreational center.

Cuomo said, at the pre-West Indian American Day Carnival Day Association’s (WIADCA) Parade Breakfast, that he hopes to invest $15 million in the project.

He said he will rename the center, the topic of much controversy, the Carey Gabay Community Center in honor of his slain Jamaican legal aide, who was gunned down in 2015 by rival gangs during the Caribbean J’Ouvert that preceded the massive parade.

“In honor of Carey Gabay, we’re going to turn the Bedford Armory, 60,000 square feet, into a community and recreation center,” Cuomo told breakfast attendees to applause.

“Carey Gabay was a model,” he added. “He grew up in public housing, he went to Harvard from public housing, he was working in public service, and he lost his life needlessly.

“And we have to learn the lesson that the young people out here need alternatives to the street; that we have to provide more training, more recreation, more jobs because too many people have lost their lives,” the governor continued.

He said the center, located on Bedford Avenue and President Street in Crown Heights, will provide to the community, among other things, social services, youth mentoring programs and health care.

The 2015 J’ouvert was marred by gun violence, when Gabay, 43, was shot in the head in a crossfire, while walking home.

Police said gunfire had erupted between two rival gangs outside the Ebbets Field Houses in Crown Heights during the 2015 celebration on Labor Day.

In late July, a 12-member jury found two men not guilty in Gabay’s shooting death.

But while jurors in Brooklyn Supreme Court acquitted the two men of the murder rap, they, however, found one of them, Micah Alleyne, 26, guilty of manslaughter.

Alleyne, of Jamaica, Queens, was also found guilty of criminal possession of a weapon, while Stanley Elianor, 27, of Brooklyn, was convicted of reckless endangerment.

Earlier in July, a Brooklyn Supreme Court jury acquitted another defendant, Keith Luncheon, of Brooklyn, of all charges — murder, manslaughter, weapons possession and reckless endangerment — in Gabay’s death.

But, during the same week, the jury convicted another Brooklyn defendant, Kenny Bazile, 33, of second-degree manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon. He was cleared of the murder charge.

Bazile was the sixth man charged with the Gabay’s murder.

In June 2016, Tyshawn Crawford, 22, of East New York, Brooklyn was indicted for murder and related charges for his alleged role in the shooting.

Gabay, the first deputy general counsel at a state economic development agency, “was an inspiring public servant whose life was cut short by senseless gun violence,” said Cuomo in a statement.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) said it had heightened security for this year’s J’Ouvert celebration, saying that it was still concerned about violence that had rocked the event in past years.

This year’s Caribbean celebration started at 6 am on Labor Day in Crown Heights, rather than at earlier hours, as in previous years.

The J’Ouvert celebration takes place ahead of the massive West Indian American Day Carnival Parade on one of Brooklyn’s major thoroughfares, Eastern Parkway.

The NYPD said the J’Ouvert parade formation area was located on Flatbush Avenue, from Grand Army Plaza to Empire Boulevard.

The parade route proceeded south on Flatbush Avenue, east on Empire Boulevard, and turned south on Nostrand Avenue to the finish area at Rutland Road.

“We learned, with last year’s success, that each of us has the ability to make J’Ouvert a safe and highly enjoyable event,” NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill told reporters.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio noted that “J’Ouvert is one of the most vibrant cultural celebrations in our city, and we’re working with the community to make the festivities are enjoyable for all.

“In the safest big city in America, no one should have to choose between ensuring their safety and celebrating their heritage,” he said.

The NYPD said security for the 2018 J’Ouvert parade followed closely to last year’s plan, “ensuring the safest possible environment for attendees and participants to enjoy the event.”

The formation area and parade route closed to the general public on Sunday, the NYPD said.

It said hundreds of additional uniformed officers provided security at 13 secure entry points — up from 12 secure entry points last year — and along the two-mile parade route, where participants and spectators were screened for weapons and alcoholic beverages.

In addition, the NYPD said backpacks and other large bags were prohibited.

The Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence also deployed violence interrupters and community partners, who understood current and past conflicts and who circulated throughout the celebration “in order to preempt and resolve” any potential conflicts.

The NYPD said hundreds of light towers illuminated each entry point along the parade route to increase safety and facilitate the ease of entry.

The department also deployed additional high-resolution security cameras to monitor for any unsafe activity.

A unified team comprising J’Ouvert organizers, J’Ouvert City International, the NYPD, clergy, community members and elected officials worked together “to ensure public safety at this year’s celebration,” the NYPD said.

Meantime, Yvette Rennie, the Trinidadian-born president of J’Ouvert City International, said on Saturday that her organization planned to kick off this year’s celebration by “honoring several individuals from our community who have worked hard behind the scenes to ensure that our culture is maintained in Central Brooklyn.

“They will be known as ‘J’Ouvert Cultural Ambassadors,” she said, disclosing that the list included local legislators, such as Mayor de Blasio; Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams; and Caribbean American politicians Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, Assemblywoman Diana C. Richardson, and Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Mathieu Eugene.

Rennie said Vincentian-born NYPD Detective Roxanne Joseph, the Caribbean liaison to the NYPD Police Commissioner, was also among the honorees.

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