This former Socialist meeting hall on Willoughby Avenue will probably be home to an RBSCC-run senior housing complex, thanks to an $800K disbursement from Council member Steve Levin. Photo by Jeremy Sapienza for BushwickBK
Christmas may be over but Bushwick will still be getting some major capital projects in the coming months, gifts of the city budget.
Every year, Council members can allocate funding from the city’s capital budget for projects in their district. The process is similar to the member-item "slush fund" that has been criticized in recent years, which typically concerns far smaller amounts of money that are given to community-based organizations for operating expenses. Capital funding consists of much larger sums of money given to one-time, site-specific projects such as school improvements, park construction, or housing complexes, all of which are coming to the neighborhood in 2011.
Bushwick Council members Diana Reyna and Erik Dilan are hauling in a combined $6 million for park renovations and construction in the coming year.
In one of his bolder moves, Dilan announced he would allocate $1.5 million for a new skate park on Moffat Street not far from the Wilson Avenue L train. Dilan is also spending $2 million to renovate the heavily used Highland Park ballfields between Bushwick and Cypress Hills, and even funded a new printed map for users of the park.
Reyna allocated $2.45 million for ongoing improvements in East Williamsburg’s Cooper Park. Reyna did remarkably well during her election campaign last year in the neighborhoods surrounding Cooper Park, and she certainly has not forgotten that.
Several Bushwick and East Williamsburg schools also received some much-needed funds.
Dilan will give the Elizabeth Farrell School (PS 116) on Knickerbocker Avenue $500,000, Irvington Public (PS 86) on Irving Avenue $200,000, and Junior High School 296 on Covert Street $150,000.
Meanwhile, Reyna is forking over $400,000 to Brooklyn Latin School at 325 Bushwick Avenue for a new gymnasium, $75,000 for a new computer lab at Progress High School at 850 Grand Street, and $225,000 for a children’s playground at PS 196 Ten Eyck at 207 Bushwick Avenue.
Housing developments will also see large infusions of public cash.
NYCHA’s Hope Gardens projects collected $750,000 for renovations, and Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC) received $1 million from the City Council’s Brooklyn delegation for its 299 Wyckoff Avenue building, the temporary home of its housing office.
Ridgewood Bushwick also received $800,000 from Councilman Steve Levin to help acquire a vacant former nursing home on Willoughby Avenue and convert it into an 80-unit senior- and family-housing facility.
Levin has been criticized by some Williamsburg residents for awarding money to a project outside of his district, but the plan has been largely praised by Bushwick residents who say that senior housing remains among the neighborhood’s top priorities. This is in contrast to homeless and drug-recovery housing which local residents and the community board vociferously oppose, as in the recent case of 979 Willoughby, just up the block from the senior-housing proposal.
In fact, the RBSCC proposal competed with a rival plan, submitted by the Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation, to convert the building into a homeless shelter. That idea was rejected by Community Board 4 two months ago when BEDC asked for a letter of support.
For now, a taxpayer-funded senior-housing facility seems the likely future use of 949 Willoughby Avenue, which was built early last century as the home of the Brooklyn Labor Lyceum, a Socialist meeting hall.