The Park Slope Armory — the long-delayed recreation center for local public schools — has missed yet another deadline and did not open in time for the first day of classes on Wednesday, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.
The 114-year-old former arsenal on Eighth Avenue was gorgeously renovated by the city at a cost of $16 million in 2007 with the intention of serving as a gym for the adjacent PS 107 and as a community recreation center, but it has sat idle amid contractual squabbles and bureaucratic red tape ever since.
And all the while, officials have promised that the opening date was right around the corner.
“I hope it’ll be open by 2012,” groaned Angela Helland, who was walking with her toddler outside the center on Tuesday. Helland said she was especially disappointed by the latest delay because she moved across the street from the block-long armory last year in anticipation of its opening.
Helland has ample reason for frustration. After all, the ribbon cutting that celebrated a deal between the city and the Prospect Park YMCA to run the facility was 17 months ago. At the time, the programs were slated to begin this spring.
But the promise of spring turned into summer and then into the first day of school today with still no rec center on the block between 14th and 15th streets.
This time, the delay is a strictly a construction and permit issue, said Thomas Sylvester, the director of the YMCA’s armory project.
“We’re ready to go … as soon as the [construction work is fully] completed,” he said.
Some classrooms and bathrooms remain unfinished, he added.
YMCA Executive Director Sean Andrews blamed the Department of Homeless Services, which has been in charge of the construction, despite its slightly different mission of caring for those without shelter.
“We are working with them, but, at the end of the day, we are waiting for them to hand over the building and permits to us,” Andrews said.
Andrews now believes that an opening in mid-fall seems achievable — after a long continuum of delays in the project’s disastrous history of contract negotiations and now, the hand over process.
A Department of Homeless Services spokeswoman said the agency could not provide a comment in time for The Brooklyn Paper’s frantic deadline.
The rec center, which will also serve other public schools, teens and adults with a full-size soccer field, a track, classrooms and other facilities, is especially needed by PS 107, which is one block away and has seen its cement play area cut in half because of the second facade renovation in as many years.
The school has neither a gym nor an auditorium.
“We need the armory more than ever,” said Cynthia Holton, the principal, pointing at that truncated schoolyard where 475 students will get fresh air tomorrow.
“This is my gym. This is where we do about everything,” she added.
Holton is anticipating more delays.
“In the winter, I’ll tell my parents to dress their kids warm,” she shrugged.
©2009 Community News Group
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