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Community Ponders How To Use Old Crown Heights Armory

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Borough President Marty Markowitz's office held a town hall meeting at Medgar Evers College Monday night to discuss how to revitalize the century-old Bedford Armory in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

It takes up almost an entire block in Crown Heights, yet the Bedford Avenue Armory has been cut off from the community for decades. But officials say that could soon change as the state transfers control of the building that once an Army cavalry unit to the city.

"Wonderful structures, strong, well-made structures and they sit and sit and do nothing. And such a great facility can be put to great use," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

So Markowitz started to gather some ideas Monday, first by giving a tour to many residents who had never seen the 150,000-square-feet space.

"Over in Park Slope you have a track and field house. In Harlem, you have a track and field house. This space would be best served for the people in this community if it's a track and field house," said a local on the tour.

Then at the town hall meeting at Medgar Evers College, dozens of residents came out and all sorts of ideas were exchanged.

"The long-term idea for a lot of the residents in the community is to get this armory for the community to house any type of events or children's events or any kind of recreational events for the neighborhood," said Community Board 9 member Demetrius Lawrence.

"This would create a comprehensive space for all of our programs. And visibility would happen for community members to know and take part in all of our programming," said Ayoka Wiles of IFE TAYO Cultural Arts Academy.

"It's big enough to hold archives where it can give the history of the delegates that served the 11th District in Brooklyn and could give you a history of the civil rights movement or whatever history you want to put in there," said resident Eric Daniels.

There were even proposals to turn it into a food pantry, after-school center for children and venue for the Gotham Girls Roller Derby.

"Really in New York City there's a lot of gyms that hold 900 people and local colleges and then there's Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center coming up. There's really no in between for a growing league like ours," said Gotham Girls Roller Derby Director David Hyatt.

The ideas will be compiled into a study being put together by NYU's Urban Planning students that is expected by the spring.

Those who missed Monday night's meeting can still also send their suggestions to bkarmoryproject@gmail.com.

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