Appetite for construction! Settlement House sells recipe book to fund new building

A rendering of the new School Settlement Center.

They’re braising the roof!

A beloved Williamsburg community center is cobbling together money for a new building by selling a cookbook of recipes donated by local residents — a collection the creator says really reflects the neighborhood’s multicultural heritage.

“There are so many interesting and diverse flavors in this neighborhood,” said Taylor Erkkinen, owner of nearby cooking store the Brooklyn Kitchen, whose 6-year-old daughter enjoys the Jackson Street Settlement House’s after-school program.

The repository of recipes will boast 35 dishes from the kitchens of home and professional cooks around the nabe, including traditional Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Italian fare.

Community members with some real foodie clout have put their weight behind the project — Lisa Bamonte of the old-school Bamonte’s Italian restaurant contributed a dish, as did Felicia Pecoraro, whose family runs a cheese shop on Leonard Street.

The School Settlement Association is trying raise $18 million so it can raze its three-story building at Manhattan Avenue and replace it with some larger digs, which will house a new auditorium, gymnasium, and computer labs.

The current building dates back to 1901 and is famed for its appearance in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” whose author Betty Smith once taught sewing to local kids at the center. But the organization says the storied structure is too cramped to accommodate the swelling tide of local youngsters who fill the center for arts and sports activities.

Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D–Bushwick) and Borough President Adams have already set aside a combined $4.5 million for the new building, but the group postponed fund-raising while seeking city approval to rezone its land to accommodate the taller new center.

The proposal was met with some resistance from residents who didn’t want to see the historic building go, but the local community board approved a rezoning to accommodate a taller, 69-foot building in June, and the city followed suit in mid November.

Now the organization has made it through all the red tape, the serious cash harvesting can begin, said Erkkinen — and the cookbook is the first step.

“I think the home-stretch is the fund-raising,” she said.

School Settlement is selling the cookbooks via a Kickstarter campaign, where Erkinnen and the group have already raised about half of their modest $2,500 goal in around two weeks.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.

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