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VIDEO: New York City Breaks Ground On $141M Shirley Chisholm Rec Center in Brooklyn

Tue October 24, 2023 - Northeast Edition #23
Brooklyn Paper & CEG

New York City elected officials and community leaders broke ground on a new recreation center at the Nostrand Playground in Brooklyn's East Flatbush on Oct. 16.

Mayor Eric Adams, Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, state Sen. Kevin S. Parker, Council Member Farah N. Louis and others attended the ceremony for the $141 million Shirley Chisholm Recreation Center — named after the legendary American politician who became the first African American woman in Congress.

Chisholm, who died in 2005, represented New York's 12th congressional district, centered in Brooklyn's Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood, for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. She also briefly ran as a Democratic candidate for president in 1972.

"With this tremendous investment in central Brooklyn, [the Adams] administration is bringing state-of-the-art recreational amenities to a community that was neglected for so many generations," said Sue Donoghue, commissioner of the New York City Parks Department. "This is a historic moment and it's truly fitting that this space will bear the name of Shirley Chisholm when it opens in 2025. Shirley Chisholm was an icon of New York City and she also believed that all New Yorkers, regardless of race, gender, income, or zip code deserve to be full participants in the political, economic, and cultural life of our city."

Construction Effort Already Well Under Way

When it is completed and open to the public, the 26,000-sq.-ft. recreation center is expected to provide recreational activities and learning opportunities for the Brooklyn neighborhood.

The rec center construction project is nearly two years in the making and is currently ahead of schedule, according to NYC Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi.

"For everybody's information, generally, it takes us almost three years to get through design," Joshi said during the groundbreaking event's press conference. "We're done. We're building already."

The Foster Avenue recreation center will feature numerous amenities including an indoor pool, a public plaza, a teaching kitchen, a media lab and a green roof, noted Brooklyn Paper. It was made possible through collaboration between elected officials and community leaders, who lobbied to build the expansive new center as part of a holistic approach to serve young people and reduce violence within the neighborhood.

"Our parks enforcement patrol [and] law enforcement throughout the city has been so important to keeping our cities safe with overall crime continuing to trend down," Donoghue noted. "But protecting our communities also means creating lively, well-maintained neighborhood spaces that are accessible to all that need them by strengthening the bonds among neighbors and giving young people a place to have fun."

Bichotte Hermelyn, who serves as chair for the New York Assembly's Subcommittee on Oversight Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise, also said that the new rec center will be integral in creating more job opportunities.

"It was important for me to make sure that there was equity, that we had job creations that this community was gonna participate in," she explained. "Not only as residents, but people who can actually build, help, and earn, and then maybe become an entrepreneur and be contractors to this great city. [The] Chisholm Recreation Center will be a pillar for our community."

Adams took note that as the center is named after Chisholm, an indisputable force and trailblazer in New York and American politics, the work done to actually get the project started was done by the African American and Caribbean American women in office today — including Louis and Bichotte Hermelyn.

"You know really, the continuation and the passing of the baton I think is extremely significant for us to acknowledge the fact that Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman from this city to be a congressperson," said the city's mayor. "And now we have women of Caribbean descent who are not only running this community, but they are in very significant positions of power."

Adams also acknowledged that the recreation center project is just the beginning of what his administration and its partners hope to accomplish to make neighborhoods across the city safer and more vibrant.

"It's not going to solve all the problems that we're facing — there are so many — but it is one of the rivers that we must dam that continue to feed the sea of violence, the sea of uncertainty, the sea of lack of access," he said. "We cannot do it if we don't put all of our energy together and make this project go from dream to reality."

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