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Armory plan advances?

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Workers are indeed putting the finishing touches on a $16-million renovation of the Park Slope Armory — but that doesn’t mean neighbors will be lifting weights and running laps any time soon.

The renovations will be completed by the end of the summer — but the city still needs to find a private organization to run the recreation center.

“The city is saying [it will call for proposals] sometime this month,” said Tony Kleckner, chairman of the Park Slope Civic Council’s Armory Committee. “We’ll see.”

Kleckner is right to be skeptical — every prediction for the completion of construction has been missed. When the plan for renovation was first announced in 2004, it was going to be finished in October, 2006.

If past performance is any indication, it could take months for the city to find a group to run the rec center. The Fort Washington Armory, which went through a similar transformation into a world-class track-and-field facility, was helped by an independent local foundation that took over operations. No such group has emerged in Park Slope, so it will be a while before the rec center opens.

“It would be a miracle if they open this fall,” said Kleckner. “If we’re lucky, sometime in 2008.”

The massive 110,000-square-foot space will have room for an Olympic-sized track, basketball courts, and a weightlifting room, and will be used by community members as well as public high school students from around the borough. Park Slope residents were enthusiastic.

“I think it is a magnificent thing,” said Park Slope resident Kay Papavassilu, who has two children at PS 107, across the street from the armory. “It’s really needed for the schools because PS 107 doesn’t have a gym — the only sports area they have is the play yard in front of the school.”

The armory was built in 1893 and housed regiments sent into combat in both of the world wars. The military presence remained until 1996, when control of the building transferred from the state to the city. It currently houses a shelter for homeless women, which uses only part of the space and won’t be affected by the renovation.

The armory’s transformation has been anticipated for some time, but the neighbors aren’t holding their breath.

“It’d be lovely,” said Kate Kinast. “But it’s been going on for so long and they’ve been fixing it for years.”

City officials did not return repeated calls for comment.

Updated 4:29 pm, July 9, 2018
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