Coney Islanders celebrated the long-awaited reopening of a Sandy-wrecked community center on Sept. 9, after housing officials completed extensive repairs on the beloved building.
“There were tears. Some of the kids cried,” said Brooke Rosenthal, the vice president of youth and community programs at the HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services, a non-profit that runs Surfside Community Center’s free programming for children and adults. “The community has been waiting seven years for this.”
The center, located at NYCHA’s Surfside Gardens Houses on W. 28th Street between Surf and Mermaid avenues, has resumed its free after-school programming and its evening and weekend events for adults, hosting board game nights, English classes for non-native speakers, parenting groups, and recreational sports. Locals are particularly excited about the center’s free coding classes, courtesy of the computer company Generation Code, offered in the community space’s new, state-of-the-art computer lab.
“It’s all new everything,” Rosenthal said.
The reopening comes after seven years and $69-million worth of repairs after Sandy’s powerful storm surges severely flooded the building in 2012. The fixes, funded by a $3 billion FEMA grant in the wake of Sandy, included the installation of new bathrooms, boilers, a full back-up power generator, and architectural finishes at the Surfside Community Center, according to Housing Authority spokesman Michael Giardina.
The housing agency also allocated an additional $1.2 million to address additional repairs not caused by the superstorm, including facade work and the replacement of more than a half mile of sanitary pipes in the complex’s basement, Giardina said.
The community center was originally scheduled to open by fall 2017, but bureaucratic infighting between the three organizations that split jurisdiction over the project — the housing agency owns the building, but the Department of Youth & Community Development controls the facility, and contracts Heartshare to run its programming — led to squabbling over maintenance duties, and construction was delayed by more than a year, according to Councilman Mark Treyger.
“They were playing a game of hot potato,” said Treyger, who toured the space in the fall of 2017, and claimed the construction looked almost complete. “It is really outrageous that that was literally the hold up.”
According to Rosenthal and Treyger, the housing agency still needs to make a few small repairs on the space, such as replacing broken or missing ceiling panels, and ironing out IT issues, but overall, the center is up to snuff.
“The facility looks great, and we’re up and running,” Rosenthal said.