The Crown Heights community is in desperate need of quality recreational facilities for youth sports leagues, senior activities and other neighborhood-based programming. While other more affluent communities have had access to many of these facilities for decades, we have been struggling to find adequate recreational space for far too long.
That is why we and so many other Crown Heights residents and stakeholders strongly support the city’s plan to provide new recreational facilities as part of the redevelopment of the Bedford-Union Armory. While we greatly respect the local elected officials who recently weighed in on the project, we disagree with their claim that this planned rec center is a “Trojan horse” and we hope these elected officials will take the time to gather more community feedback regarding our support for this development.
The recreational facility proposed for the Armory will include three multi-sport courts, three hardwood basketball courts, an indoor athletic field and a 25-meter competitive swimming pool. These are the exactly the kind of resources needed for young people in Crown Heights – especially youth basketball and soccer leagues who simply cannot find the same kind of quality practice space enjoyed by the counterparts in other parts of Brooklyn and the city at large. Seniors in our community will also greatly benefit from quality athletic space for exercise and other wellness programs.
We also know that, unfortunately, many of Crown Heights’ local public schools in District 17 have had no choice but to use cafeterias, auditoriums and other inadequate spaces for school athletic programs. Providing real sports facilities at the Armory would be a game-changer for these schools, especially because the planned pool is the proper size for athletic competition.
Additionally, we cannot overstate the value of these resources in efforts to decrease violence in Crown Heights. It is a sad reality that too many young people in our community fall victim to violence because they do not have a safe place to gather and play sports, especially with regard to after-school programming. By bringing these facilities to the Armory, we can provide Crown Heights with a powerful new tool for keeping young people safe and empowering them to succeed in athletics and education.
Most importantly, the city has committed to ensuring that community members are able to utilize these recreational facilities at discounted rates at any time. The operator of the space will be required to partner local organizations and non-profit groups that provide the kind of sports and community programming that will take place there.
While we understand the concerns raised by some of our local elected officials, it is our sincere hope that they will consider meeting with us and others in our community who support new recreational facilities at the Armory because of the powerfully positive impact they will have. When our community voices are heard, we are confident that we will succeed in bringing this much-needed resource to Crown Heights and strengthening our community for generations to come.
Geoffrey Davis represents the James E Davis Stop Violence Foundation; Frank Johnson represents the Ice-Tea Youth Development Program; Carlton Screen represents The Flatbush Youth Association, Inc.; Ty Grant represents Team First, Inc.; and Dario Trujillo represents the Central Brooklyn Soccer Club.