It has taken six years for the city to build a two-story community center for the Ingersoll Houses. How long is that? Well, in 1927, it took builders just three years to build the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building — the tallest in Brooklyn. The Empire State Building was built in just one year.
“It’s not reasonable,” said Marvell Cruickshank, a community organizer for Families United for Racial and Economic Equality. “Look how fast the Oro [a 40-story tower just off Flatbush Avenue Extension] went up! Look how fast the J Condo [33 stories in DUMBO] went up!”
Indeed, both the Oro and the J are slated for completion at around the same time as the community center (even though the community center got head starts of five and four years, respectively).
“The community center is complete and is currently in the ‘sign-off phase,’ ” said Howard Marder, spokesman for the New York City Housing Authority, which is overseeing the project. “Now, they’re going through the punch list, the little things.”
Marder could only confirm that construction on the center began in 2002. Residents recall the center closing for renovation in 2001.
“Once they get the temporary certificate of occupancy, then [they] have to apply to the Department of Health of Mental Hygiene for a permit, because of the kitchen. So when they say ‘fall 2007,’ it could be late fall or into the winter. But it’s not that far away. The work is basically completed.”
Residents of the Ingersoll Houses, the public housing residents for whom the center is primarily intended, are nothing if not fed up.
“If you have a teenager who was 12 years old when the center was shut down for renovations, now that teenager is 18,” said Ed Brown, the president of the Ingersoll Tenants Association. “That’s six years that the kid could have been in a program receiving mental health services, or literacy training, or been in a gang prevention program. We have a whole generation of teenagers who have been in limbo.”
That is, a whole generation of teenagers living in a deeply under-served community with few recreational outlets who could have benefited from the $6.7-million center’s gymnasium, art and crafts room, computer lab, library, and game room. Not to mention the panoply of social services that are supposed to be slated for the center.
That generation includes kids like Brown’s son, now 20 and a long-time honors student, who recently survived being shot six times in a dispute over a woman.
“You can only do so much when the resources aren’t there,” said Brown. “We need that center. We need that center bad.”
Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) agreed. “It’s been closed since before I got elected, and I’m almost in my fourth year, and still no center,” said James. “And, we’ve had a number of incidents in Ingersoll and Whitman.”
But Marder defended the city’s seeming lethargy.
“Sometimes things take longer than you want,” said Marder. “But I can guarantee you, it’s just part of the overall construction process.”
Staff writer Dana Rubinstein lives in Crown Heights.
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