ADMINISTRATION AND COUNCIL ALLOCATES FUNDS TO CREATE SHIRLEY CHISHOLM COMMUNITY CENTER IN EAST FLATBUSH

Mockup of the Shirley A. Chisholm Community Center.

NEW YORK, NY: On June 6, the New York City Council voted to approve a $85.2 billion budget, which includes funding for a new community center in East Flatbush, named after the legendary Shirley A. Chisholm.

“I am blessed to walk in the distinguished footsteps of Shirley Chisholm, both as a Caribbean-American and as a elected representative of this community,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. “I feel personally connected to her trademark ‘unbought and unbossed’ brand of leadership – a brand I endeavor to represent in my work every day. Every African-American, Caribbean-American and woman seeking public service stands on her shoulders, and I believe the best way to commemorate her many contributions is to establish a community center bearing her name which will serve generations to come.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio contributed $40 million in funding, in addition to $10 million that Council Member Williams secured with the help of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

The center, when completed, will be the only such facility serving residents of the 45th District, and would offer residents of all ages access to recreation, educational and employment opportunities.

“This center would be a place where young people could gravitate to in the evenings, and a place where our teachers, our firemen, our policemen can come in and mentor you people and participate in the community,” William Howard, a former staffer for the late Shirley Chisholm, said. “It’ll also be a place for senior citizens where they can interact with the youth and share their experiences and knowledge with them.”

The Shirley A. Chisholm Community Center would be located on the grounds of the existing Tilden Park, located in the East Flatbush district on Tilden Avenue, between East 48th and East 49th Streets. The center would include a gymnasium with accompanying men and women’s locker rooms, cardio / weight room, multipurpose room, and a game room. The center will also feature a computer resource center, classrooms, audiovisual room and a greenhouse on the roof.

“As co-chair of the Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, I know that our young people need positive outlets to turn them away from poor life choices,” said Council Member Williams. “The fact that my district ranks last in New York City in park space, combined with our lack of a community center, makes the challenges we face with youth violence easy to understand and all the more pressing to address. I hope we will have strong public and private partnership to make the Shirley Chisholm Community Center come to life.”

“This community deserves a community center, and safe haven for our kids. I have two other surviving children who don’t have anywhere to go when they come home from school, and have to stay in the house because outside is not safe, “said Natasha Christopher, who lost her 14-year-old son Akeal Christopher to gun violence. “They deserve to grow up and have a safe place to be.”

“A safe haven is a community center,” said Maxine Lewis, who lost her 16-year-old son, Carlton Locksley Bennett, almost 25 years ago to gun violence. “I believe a community center, especially in this area, in this time, would be beneficial to the many young people and older folks in this neighborhood.”

The process for bringing the community center into East Flatbush began in 2012 when Council Member Williams began discussing with local colleagues in government and the Bloomberg administration on how to bring this project into fruition. Council Member Williams also engaged constituents during public forums to share with them the vision for the community center.

In 2013, the Bloomberg Administration allocated $300,000 to complete an impact study for the development of the Shirley A. Chisholm Community Center, which allowed for the City to move forward with the project.

Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, sharing with community members the vision for the Shirley A. Chisholm Community Center during a 2013 public forum. Photo Credit: Ernest Skinner, NYC Council.

As the proud daughter of a Barbadian mother and a Guyanese father, Shirley Chisholm blazed a trail for the Caribbean-American community, which predominates the population of the 45th District. Representative Chisholm has historical significance to Brooklyn and this community in particular, obtaining her college degree, like Council Member Williams, from Brooklyn College and having her congressional district encompass the majority of this area. She also had a history of commitment to young people, from her beginnings in teaching and child care to a legislative career including victories like the Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) program; this bill, which she authored while in the New York State Assembly, paved the road to open admissions at the City University of New York (CUNY), providing opportunities for low-income students.

“A community is only as good as its residents, and its residents only as good as its neighbors, and its neighbors, are only as good as the resources they have to enrich that community,”said Monique Waterman, founder and executive director of East Flatbush Village. “The Shirley Chisholm Community Center would be a beacon for neighbors to enrich their lives and those of the community.”