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Bed-Stuy Cultural Center Closed After City Finds Faulty Fire Alarm

 The city will close Von King's Cultural Center for up to two years for necessary repairs to the fire alarm system and scheduled renovations.
The city will close Von King's Cultural Center for up to two years for necessary repairs to the fire alarm system and scheduled renovations.
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New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A Bed-Stuy community center slated to close down for renovations in the fall has had to close its doors early after the city found its fire alarm system was faulty.

The Herbert Von King Cultural Arts Center had to call a halt to all of its classes on Monday, after FDNY officials inspected the complex in February and found it failed to meet minimum standards, the Parks Deparment said.

“Community safety is Parks’ first priority, and although we have attempted to identify a means to repair the fire alarm system at the Von King Cultural Arts Center, we have discovered that it is not operationally feasible in light of the upcoming capital renovation project,” the parks department said in a statement.

The agency had already been planning to close the building, located between Lafayette and Greene avenues at Tompkins and Marcy, for up to 18 months starting in October to accommodate renovations to the center’s multipurpose room. 

The early closure is “in the interest of protecting the community,” parks officials said.

An announcement of the early closure at Brooklyn Community Board 3’s general meeting this week surprised residents, prompting one board member to call for a possible Kickstarter to fund expedited work within the building.

CB3 Chair Tremaine Wright said the board has a commitment from the Parks Department to press for an earlier construction date.

The space includes a dance room, computer resource center, arts and crafts room and auditorium. In addition to planned improvements such as a new stage, seating and wheelchair lifts, the space will now receive a “complete overhaul” of its fire alarm system, officials said.

The facility, housed in one of Brooklyn’s oldest parks, had to cancel planned classes. Among the classes on the roster include ceramics classes, fitness programs, Tae Kwon Do, musical theater workshops and teen programs five days a week.

Workers began clearing all items out the building starting on Monday, according to an employee at the center.

“For almost two years, that’s it, we’re out,” said one employee who declined to give her name.

The city agency will continue to offer activities in the park itself, including fitness classes, arts and bike riding. Those programs will resume in May and June, a spokesperson said.

Von King Park will also host a Kids in Motion site in the summer from Mondays through Saturdays with free organized sports, games and demos. It is unclear if outdoor programming will continue following the end of the summer season.

The cultural center already saw cutbacks in operational hours and services late last year when the city ended a longtime after-school program due to low enrollment numbers.

In the meantime, local nonprofit 500 Men Making a Difference hopes to draw residents to Von King with an array of outdoor activities, according to founder Wayne Devonish.

The group, which has helped improve the cultural center through volunteer paint projects, is also spearheading a conservancy to spruce up the park.

“The cultural center is a vital piece of the fabric of the community where kids and families can go,” Devonish said.

“It’s definitely unfortunate that the official building won’t be operating for so long but hopefully we can work to involve the community in other ways.”

Devonish added that he is looking to move the center’s programs to Magnolia Tree Earth Center, another community outpost adjacent to the park.