Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams, deputy leader of the City Council, said the Council voted to approve a $85.2 billion budget, which included funding for a new community center in East Flatbush, named after the legendary Shirley A. Chisholm, of Barbadian and Guyanese parentage.
“I am blessed to walk in the distinguished footsteps of Shirley Chisholm, both as a Caribbean-American and as an elected representative of this community,” said Williams, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn.
“I feel personally connected to her trademark ‘unbought and unbossed’ brand of leadership — a brand I endeavor to represent in my work every day,” he added. “Every African-American, Caribbean-American and woman seeking public service stands on her shoulders, and I believe the best way to commemorate her many contributions is to establish a community center bearing her name which will serve generations to come.”
Williams said Mayor Bill de Blasio contributed $40 million in funding, in addition to $10 million that Williams said he secured with the help of Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
The center, when completed, will be the only such facility serving residents of the 45th District, and would offer residents of all ages access to recreation, educational and employment opportunities, Williams said.
“This center would be a place where young people could gravitate to in the evenings, and a place where our teachers, our firemen, our policemen can come in and mentor you people and participate in the community,” said William Howard, a former staffer for the late Shirley Chisholm and president of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA).
“It’ll also be a place for senior citizens where they can interact with the youth and share their experiences and knowledge with them,” he added.
Williams said the Shirley A. Chisholm Community Center would be located on the grounds of the existing Tilden Park, located in the East Flatbush district on Tilden Avenue, between East 48th and East 49th Streets.
The center would include a gymnasium, with accompanying men and women’s locker rooms, cardio / weight room, multipurpose room, and a game room, said Williams.
He said the center will also feature a computer resource center, classrooms, audiovisual room and a greenhouse on the roof.
“As co-chair of the Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, I know that our young people need positive outlets to turn them away from poor life choices,” said Williams. “The fact that my district ranks last in New York City in park space, combined with our lack of a community center, make the challenges we face with youth violence easy to understand and all the more pressing to address.
“ I hope we will have strong public and private partnership to make the Shirley Chisholm Community Center come to life,” he added.
As the proud daughter of a Barbadian mother and a Guyanese father, Williams said Shirley Chisholm “blazed a trail for the Caribbean-American community, which predominates the population of the 45th District.
Chisholm has historical significance to Brooklyn, and this community in particular, obtaining her college degree, like Williams, from Brooklyn College, and having her congressional district encompass the majority of this area.
Williams said she also had a history of commitment to young people, from her beginnings in teaching and child care to a legislative career including victories, like the Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) program.
This bill, which she authored while in the New York State Assembly, paved the road to open admissions at the City University of New York (CUNY), providing opportunities for low-income students, Williams said.