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Exclusive: Inside the Park Slope Armory

The Brooklyn Paper
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The public finally got inside the Park Slope Armory last Thursday.

Unfortunately, the public consisted of me and my senior editor, Vince DiMiceli.

We got the tour as part of the city’s effort to convince the public that the long-awaited, lavishly renovated armory on Eighth Avenue would soon open as a spectacular, YMCA-run recreation center for schoolkids and neighbors.

There’s no denying that this project has been long awaited: The city’s $16-million renovation of the former 14th Regiment Armory was completed in 2007, but since then, the building has remained unused, except by the existing women’s shelter and a veteran’s group that has also had space inside for years.

And I can confirm that the armory was lavishly renovated. As someone who’s been inside the building, you certainly won’t hear any qualms from me about what a great facility it will be (with the minor caveat that there are no showers).

The armory has been stuck in bureaucratic turnaround for so long that most Park Slopers don’t think it will actually open. Part of the blame for that belongs to the Department of Education, which initially pledged some money because its schoolkids would use the facility during the day. When those city funds dried up, potential private operators ran for the hills.

And the rest of the blame falls on the Department of Homeless Services, which, whatever good it does for people without a roof over their heads, is not in the business of operating recreation centers and should not have been put there.

After what seemed like years — because it actually was years — the Prospect Park YMCA was named the winning bidder and will operate the facility once Homeless Services hands over the keys.

We’ve been told that it’s imminent. We’ve been told that before.

But here’s what we know: When the Armory opens, the YMCA needs about 2,500 members to cover its $1-million operational budget, said Sean Andrews, executive director.

Those paying members will subsidize a world of good that the Y wants to provide: senior programs, exercise programs for kids, reduced-cost memberships for low-income families, art programs, and other great things.

But without operating cash from the city, Andrews will have to sell a lot of $40-per-month memberships at a gym without showers and whose main recreational area is off limits from 9 am-2 pm every day.

If this project fails, most Park Slopers know that it won’t be Andrews’s fault.

Gersh Kuntzman is the Editor of The Brooklyn Paper. E-mail Gersh at gkuntzman@cnglocal.com
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Reader Feedback

paul from park slope says:
i've been looking forward to this armory opening for some time but, honestly, your tour makes it seem like a giant waste of space unless you're a runner. ONE basketball court....ONE volleyball court....and a bunch of seats!! no weights? no machines? no place to hold yoga, pilates, spinning classes???

it looks like a giant waste of space to me. yes, there's a nice track but let's not forget prospect park is two blocks away.
Nov. 10, 2009, 1:37 pm
Steve from Flatbush says:
I agree on the giant waste of space comment, but my choice of what to do with the armory wouldn't have been a real crowd-pleaser, either. I think it should be an ice hockey rink.

Heck, I'd even be happy with a roller rink.
Nov. 13, 2009, 3:39 pm
jay from pslope says:
You both are overlooking the fact that the track will be open year round and unlike prospect park, where for many months of the year it is too cold and too covered with ice to use, especially if you are a long distance runner who runs 10 miles or more at a time.
I can't wait for this thing to open so I can train year round. I live by park ONLY so I can run, but I can only do that part of the year, when the indoor track opens I will be able to train year round. Maybe that is not much to you, but its HUGE for me, and other runners as well.
Having said that I am really annoyed that millions have been spent and its been done for two years and all we get is lame vague comments about "permits". That is not fair to anyone and its the biggest waste of all. It just smacks of more NYC fraud and corruption.
Nov. 15, 2009, 11:12 pm
jason from park slope says:
really? no weights or machines or anything?

i guess i'll try for some pick-up basketball and run some laps
Nov. 17, 2009, 11:34 am
jason from park slope says:
when this article appeared in the post. it said that there would be weights and cardio room, fyi. it's mentioned in editor Gersh's post link below. yea, let's get in shape..it's all about the south slope, baby...let's do this.

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/brooklyn/exclusive_inside_the_park_slope_LDUTlmKQmVU8lMpqryre3Mxercise room.
Nov. 20, 2009, 9:15 pm
Mark from Clinton Hill says:
I think it's an atrocity that this Armory was converted into a homeless shelter or a YMACA - it should have rightfully remained a military Armory!! The 14th Regiment of Brooklyn was one of the most famous and hard -fighting regiments in the Union Army during the Civil War - they were known as "the Red Legged Devils" due to their distinctive uniforms complete with red pants and red and blue jackets and Kepis - They fought HARD at all the major engagements with the Union Army of the Potomac from Bull Run where they were "Baptized by Fire" to Antietam and Gettysburg to Spotsylvania and Appomattox. Wood side Queens is named after their first colonel. Their service continued through the Spanish American War, World War One where they participated in Breaking the Hindenburg Line to World War 2 Korean War and Vietnam. They have a great and rich history and now all the artifacts and history it is all but lost and scattered to the winds because of uncaring politicians that see this buildings and others like it as nothing more than a huge empty old building they can utilize to get votes instead of respecting it as the historic treasure it really is. The true shame is that most if not all of those us use the Amory today and every day have Little to no idea of the history and sacrifice of the soldiers this building was truly meant for - such a shame...
Feb. 14, 2011, 2:57 pm
your dear friend says:
You guys,
There is a gym and weights, zumba, spinning, tredmills, bikes.
May 16, 8:15 pm

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