Park Slope: Sweatin' at the Armory
Park Slope residents no longer have any reason to be out of shape. The historic armory building at Seventh Avenue and 14th Street officially reopened Tuesday as a fitness and recreation center.
“No excuses!” Borough President Marty Markowitz joked at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Every family in Park Slope has to exercise.”
He also turned to the kindergarteners and first graders from P.S. 10 who were in attendance. “I want you all to live at least 100 years,” Markowitz told them.
During the ceremony, the children sat patiently on mats in the track-and-field area of the building, which is the size of a stadium. The light came through three large arched windows in the old brick wall, and through the narrow windows at the top of the ceiling arch. The rubber floors still smelled new.
“I’ve never seen a huge place like this,” said Jacob Cedar, 6, a first-grader from P.S. 10.
“We are here for an exercising opening,” said Roberta Silver, 7, also a first-grader. “Maybe we’ll exercise today.”
Sure enough, when the ceremony concluded, the children were allowed to race around under the direction of coaches from the Prospect Park YMCA, which will operate the new facility.
The garrison area of the armory, which opened in 1895 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been used as a 70-bed dormitory for homeless women since the 1980s. But another area of more than 50,000 square feet where drills once were held was underutilized for years.
The idea of converting the space into an athletic center was announced four years ago. Half the money for the $16 million project came from the mayor’s office; another $6 million came from City Council and $2 million came from the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office.
In addition to the fitness center, the newly renovated building will house a teen center, arena space for basketball, boxing and fencing, an after-school program, and a day camp. The center will be open year-round, seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
On the other side of the Armory, at the shelter operated by the Church Avenue Merchants Association, women were standing outside smoking as the ribbon-cutting went on inside.
Although the details haven’t yet been worked out, officials did say that shelter residents will be able to use the athletic center.
“I’ll be going to this gym, definitely,” said Tracy Havery, a shelter resident of six months. “I like this place, it’s safe, it’s a great location, and now we can use the gym.”
“That would be wonderful, that would be great,” said Tisha Shomas, a recreational coordinator for the shelter.
-- Katya Soldak
Photo via gmpicket on Flickr