Locals demand city renovate Bed-Stuy rec center kitchen

Locals are outraged that the city is scraping plans to refurbish the kitchen at the Herbert Von King Arts Center. Photo by Kevin Duggan

It’s a recipe for disappointment!

Bedford-Stuyvesant civic gurus are furious at a city scheme to eliminate a community kitchen from a local rec center as part of a long-delayed renovation.

The Parks Department plan to refurbish the Herbert Von King Cultural Arts Center will not include a teaching kitchen that formerly graced the community space before buildings inspectors shuttered it in 2015, because officials lack the funds to bring the old culinary equipment up to code, an agency spokesman told Community Board 3’s Parks, Arts and Culture committee Wednesday.

“We don’t believe there can be a functional teaching kitchen in there. Because of the funding constraints it was engineered out of the project,” Chris Yandoli told the civic group. “Some of the equipment that was there previously doesn’t meet code and we don’t have funding to make it compliant as far as venting things out.”

The city agency has allocated more than $6.5 million from Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr. (D–Bedford-Stuyvesant), his predecessor Al Vann, and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office to reconstruct the multipurpose room and fire alarm system of the community facility that lies within the Herbert Von King Park at Lafayette and Tompkins avenues, and one civic honcho said Parks gurus have more than enough money to preserve the kitchen.

“It was heavily used, so to have that building renovated and the huge budget, I’m not understanding why you can’t put the kitchen back,” said the chair of the committee Marion Little.

One board member noted that the kitchen provided both a space for local youngsters to learn about cooking and as a way to make grub for others during events in and around the center, which also boasts sports courts, an auditorium, an arts and crafts room, and an outdoor amphitheater.

“We have community children and schools that want culinary programs,” said Melissa Plowden-Morman. “We can actually venture out into Von King Park with the food too.”

The city shuttered the center in April 2015 after buildings inspectors found the building wasn’t up to code, and construction on the renovation project kicked off in September 2017, according to their capital projects tracker.

The project was supposed to wrap up in March, but officials found numerous violations of the city’s building code along the way — such as leaking ceilings and defective air-conditioning systems — which added some two years of delays, and now the building is slated to reopen in spring 2021, according to Yandoli.

“Basically it’s like the opening of a can of worms, it’s a really old building, any time you open up something there’s another step involved,” he said.

The green space bureaucrat said the building could still host events that are “culinary themed” but community board members said that won’t cut it.

“There’s no way possible that the space they have for culinary can be used for that — it is a problem,” said Plowden-Morman. “It’s needed in the community so we have to find out how we’re going to get this done. That’s something that we definitely want pushed.”