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Refuge on the market: Fort Greene community center’s days numbered, officials say

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Photo gallery

1/6
ADVOCACY: Public Advocate Letitia James says the city needs to renew the Fort Greene Council’s lease.
2/6
FED UP: Dozens of seniors, youngsters, and Fort Greene residents turned out for the demonstration.
3/6
ON THE SPOT: Activist Viola Plummer, center left, corrals Mayor DeBlasio, demanding that he intervene to save the community center.
4/6
MARKET I-RATE: Protesters said the city needs to look out for low-income people, and not let the community center’s landlord put the building up for rent to the highest bidder.
5/6
SHOWING SUPPORT: Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, left, and East New York Councilwoman Inez Barron attended.
6/6
CIVICS CLASS: Kids and their parents made the case for the center to stay.

A Fort Greene building that has housed daycare and senior centers for four decades is up for rent to the highest bidder because the city failed to reach a lease renewal deal, according to administrators of the city-funded programs.

The upheaval comes over the protest of 75 neighborhood children, seniors, jazz musicians, and officials who rallied outside City Hall on Monday afternoon, demanding city managers save the Fort Greene Council’s 43-year-old community center at 966-972 Fulton St. The landlord had said he would open up bidding if the city did not agree to a lease by Monday night, which pols on hand said city negotiators had a moral obligation to.

“The services provided by the Fort Greene Council are incredibly important for our community,” said Public Advocate Letitia James, the neighborhood’s former councilwoman. “Hundreds of seniors, children, and families depend on this center. The city must find funding to keep this — and other centers like it — open.”

The building is home to the Grace A. Harewood Senior Center and the Young Minds Day Care Center, which the Fort Greene Council says serve about 200 people per day, as well as Jazz 966, a jazz club that runs out of the senior center on Friday nights. The lease is coming up and the city has balked at the landlord’s increase, which is still well below market rate, the group’s reps have said.

The area’s current councilwoman said it is not too late for the city to step in and save the center.

“We have to make sure this lease is renegotiat­ed,” Laurie Cumbo said. “I never enter a battle I don’t intend on winning!”

The man who runs Jazz 966 said the rally’s turnout was encouraging, and an extension of the lively spirit at the club that has hosted such greats as Wynton Marsalis.

“This afternoon will go down in history,” Valle says. “[Jazz 966] is a place that swings and that’s a fact.”

Some regular performers turned out to show their support for the venue.

“We can’t lose this,” jazz vocalist Steve Cromity said.

At one point, Mayor DeBlasio walked past the protest, and demonstrators buttonholed him, demanding he address the problem. Hizzoner said he needed more information before he could respond.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services said last week that negotiations are still ongoing, but that officials are not yet close to reaching a deal.

On Tuesday morning, the Fort Greene Council’s chairman and executive director said no deal had been reached.

Despite the optimism of rally attendees, the chairman, Sam Pinn, said that the situation is dire, as the landlord is already preparing signs to advertise the property and the city’s administrative agency has reduced its lease request for the daycare center from three years to one.

“It appears to have gotten worse,” he said.

The Fort Greene Council director concurred, saying that building owner Jim Argento wants the group to remain where it is, but can’t agree to the city’s low offers.

“Negotiations are not going well,” Claudette Macey said. “The landlord wants us to stay here but he can’t wait.”

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Reasonable discourse

bkmanhatman from nubrucklyn says:
man. seriously the city better not drop the ball on this.
March 17, 2015, 1:05 pm
UselessMayor from CorruptGov says:
I wonder how they are feeling about the last Gov and Mayor elections right about now...
March 17, 2015, 2:31 pm
Grace says:
Oh no - apparently if they close it that little girl will never read or sing songs again! There's literally nowhere else she can do that!
Another illiterate in the community!
March 17, 2015, 3:18 pm
Mom from Clinton Hill says:
Believe me, there is no place for real people to go anymore.
March 17, 2015, 7:06 pm
Ian from Williamsburg says:
This is rather absurd. The community center is offered below market rent and they won't pay. Now they're complaining to the city and a private property owner. How about the 200/day users pitch in to pay the rent instead of look for a free handout.
March 17, 2015, 10:17 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
What's worse, the city probably has/had a building or land in the area for this community center, but gave it away to a developer.
March 18, 2015, 10:04 am
Carlton(Curly) Munroe from Bed / Sty says:
Trust me. Prayer H E L P S!
March 18, 2015, 6:24 pm
Michael says:
Curly - what if they pray too (the other side)??? Who's prayer wins?????
March 19, 2015, 7:04 am
Chocolate from Da Hood says:
Dis funky yo!
March 20, 2015, 1:28 pm

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