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At the Armory, wait ‘til next year

The Park Slope Armory is still not open — despite two years of promises. Once open, though, it promises to be spectacular (below).
The Brooklyn Paper / Bess Adler

Sorry, sports fans, but the long-delayed, torturous redevelopment of the Park Slope Armory into a community and local school recreation center is delayed again.

Despite what other media are reporting, the recreation center, whose $16-million renovation was finished nearly two years ago, is not likely to meet its most-recent target opening date this month.

At a meeting last week, representatives of the Department of Homeless Services, which operates the building, said that the center only needs a sign-off by the Fire and Buildings departments before the Prospect Park YMCA can begin running recreation programs inside the former 14th Regiment armory.

But despite relentless questioning from members of Community Board 6, the officials refused to actually set a date.

“They can’t even give us a ballpark figure,” said Nica Lalli, CB6’s Parks Committee chairwoman. “They can not give us anything that will satisfy our need to know. We asked it 15 ways, but they did not budge and give us a date.”

On Monday, the homeless agency, which has site control because it operates a woman’s shelter in the building, told The Brooklyn Paper in a statement that the opening is “imminent.”

The agency’s commissioner, Robert Hess, explained the seemingly endless delays on the condition of the 106-year-old building.

“While this space was antiquated and took time to integrate systems, it is now truly state of the art,” he said. “I believe you will see that the final product was worth the wait.”

Hess was a bit quick with that “was.”

The delays continue, despite promises that the center would be open in May, then by the opening day of school this year.

The responsibility for the delay belongs entirely to the city, which first failed to meet its original renovation deadline two years ago. Then, the city designated the YMCA to operate the facility in May, 2008, but did not even finish inking the deal until December of that year.

Even if the turnover of the building to the YMCA is “imminent,” it will take the Y six to eight weeks to complete its own work inside the facility, said Executive Director Sean Andrews.

But Andrews said that some recreation programs for elementary and middle school children — the main reason for the renovation of the building in the first place — will begin immediately once he has the keys in hand.

“The drill floor will be available for the students right away,” he said, though he said community space and exercise facilities won’t likely be in place until the new year.

Either way, Hess was confident that all would be forgotten once the public gets inside that building.

“We will be turning over a beautiful and safe facility for the children and adults of Park Slope,” he said in a statement. “[It] will become a hub of the community.”

Perhaps, but the multi-year process leaves Lalli wanting more.

“When it opens, it will be fantastic,” she said. “But it is an outrage that this whole process was designed to eliminate any public input. As a result, no one has been accountable to anyone.”

The Brooklyn Paper / Jeff Bachner

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