The kids will be alright!
The city plans to build East Flatbush’s first community center for teens to kick back, relax, and stay out of trouble — the Shirley A. Chisholm Community Center — named after the first black woman elected to Congress in 1968, who also made a historic run for the White House a few years later.
The local pol wanted kids to have a safe spot to hang out, but the nearest community center is miles away, said Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–East Flatbush).
“There’s none in my district, the closest one is two-to-three miles away in Brownsville. I’d walk around and try to engage young people and give them more productive things to do, but they’d often say, ‘Where do you want us to go?’ That’s a decent point,” said Williams, who lobbied the city for the center and arranged $10 million in funding with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D–Bronx). “I’m very excited, and it’s in an area that has seen some negative behavior previously for young people, so I think this will be a great resource for them.”
Williams first pitched the idea for a community center in Tilden Park back in 2012 to then-Mayor Bloomberg, who later allocated $300,000 for a study about how the center would benefit the community. And this year, Mayor DeBlasio included $40 million in his capital budget for the $50-million Tilden Avenue center, which will rise on a blacktop lot in the park between E. 48th and E. 49th streets.
The soon-to-be local hotspot for kids will include a gymnasium, game room, computer-resource center, classrooms, and possibly a greenhouse on the roof, said Williams.
And since it’ll go up on the blacktop, Tilden Park won’t lose any of its grass or basketball courts, he said.
“We didn’t want to take away any greenspace,” said Williams.
And the future Shirley A. Chisholm Community Center will also be a true safe haven for kids to stay out of danger, said one mother, who lost her 14-year-old son Akeal Christopher to gun violence in Bushwick in 2012.
“I have two other surviving children who don’t have anywhere to go when they come home from school, and have to stay in the house because outside is not safe,” said Natasha Christopher, in a press release. “They deserve to grow up and have a safe place to be.”
Williams hopes the Parks Department breaks ground as soon as possible so kids can start enjoying all the new center will have to offer, he said.
“I’d love to have it open in a couple years. The community is very involved in designing it, figuring out what is needed,” Williams said. “I’d like to see it completed as soon as possible. The community needs it.”