- See more at: http://blogtimenow.com/blogging/automatically-redirect-blogger-blog-another-blog-website/#sthash.Q6qPkwFC.dpuf Advocates Want Vacant Army Center Used to Free Up School Space | Bronx News Networkbronx

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Advocates Want Vacant Army Center Used to Free Up School Space

It’s a game of musical buildings in School District 10.

One of the most crowded districts in the city, parents and advocates have been trying for years to have new school space built at the Kingsbridge Armory Annex, a cluster of buildings on West 195th St. For that to happen, the building’s current tenants—the National Guard—would have to move. Organizers have suggested what they see as a perfect new home for the military units: a now-vacate building in Wakefield known as the Muller Army Reserve Center.

But there’s a catch. The Muller Center, at 555 Nereid Ave., is subject to the Base Reassignment and Closure, or BRAC, process—a federally mandated procedure for closing excess military bases and transitioning them for community use. The process requires that priority be given to the needs of the homeless in the area, making it a possibility that the Muller building could be used as a shelter, an idea community members are resistant to.

“I don’t see any way it could benefit the community,” said Father Richard Gorman, chairperson for Community Board 12. There are already two homeless housing projects in the works in this Wakefield neighborhood, he added, saying the area doesn’t need any additional sites.

Gorman said the proposal to move the National Guard into the facility would be a “win-win” for the neighborhood, as it would be an appropriate use for the building and would simultaneously free up space at the Armory Annex for much-needed schools.

A decision on the Muller Center has been delayed by the city, he said.

The building’s future is in the hands of a Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA)—a panel comprised of the Bronx Borough President and two deputy mayors from Mayor Bloomberg’s Administration.

A spokesman from the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which began accepting Notices of Intent from community groups for use of the building last year, said that no decision has been made yet about the center's future. The deadline was pushed back 270 days to December 15th, according to the spokesman, because the LRA is still reviewing its applications.

Liseth Pérez Almeida, press secretary for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., who serves as the Chairman of the LRA, said the Borough President is behind the community's efforts to free up space at the Armory.

“The BP strongly supports using it to house the National Guard units from the Armory to facilitate development of schools,” she wrote.

But the National Guard will have to compete with two community groups who are also vying for the space. An article in the New York Daily News last fall reported that the Doe Fund and the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (SoBro) were petitioning to use the site.

The Doe Fund, a Manhattan-based non-profit that runs a work readiness program and supportive housing for the homeless, said it could not comment on whether or not it had applied.

Phillip Morrow, SoBro’s president and CEO, said the group had indeed submitted an application for the building in response to the EDC’s Requests for Proposals, but that they hadn’t heard anything about it since.

“You probably know about as much as we do,” Morrow said. “It’s sort of fallen off our radar.”

SoBro had proposed using the space to build a Challenger Center—a mock space shuttle that children could use to learn about the science and technology behind space travel. The rest of the building, he said, would be used as permanent housing for the homeless, which SoBro included in the plan to align itself with the EDC’s request. SoBro has since started looking for other buildings to house their space center.

The EDC spokesman said there will be a public hearing, followed by a period for public comment on the reuse plan and homeless assistance submission, before a decision is made by the end of the year. Dates have not yet been set.


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