For over a decade, the community center on Baltic Street has been closed due to needed repairs. In 2014, resident voted to allocate $475,000 from Councilman Stephen Levin's participatory budgeting process, but work has yet to begin.
“There is now a generation of Gowanus children growing up deprived of the opportunities and resources the community center provided,” said Levin. “While the community has experienced incredible change in the past decade, the lack of a center is one of the exceptions.”
According to supporters, it’s closure has deprived residents in one the city’s largest public housing developments.
“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,” said Imani Gayle Gillison, a resident of the Gowanus Houses and director of Theater of the Liberated, a local performing arts group.
An online petition supporting its reopening has received 700 signatures.
A spokesperson for NYCHA said the money allocated in 2014 will help renovate the center, but it could not move forward with its opening without a partner to operate programs under the Department of Youth and and Community Development’s (DYCD) purview. That programming would also need funding.
“NYCHA is diligently working with DYCD to find a sponsor for the community center at Gowanus Houses so that local youth can have access to programs and services that will meet their needs,” the spokesperson added.
Gowanus is one of the neighborhood’s being eyed by the de Blasio administration for a rezoning similar to what’s taking place in Far Rockaway or East New York.
Councilman Brad Lander has been one of the key figures in the the plan to shape the future growth of the neighborhood. He also supports the reopening of the center.
“Reopening the Gowanus Houses Community Center has been a rallying call in this neighborhood for a decade, and now is the time to bring it back for good,” Lander said. “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.”