LOWER EAST SIDE — Decades after activists began imploring the city to turn over a derelict storage facility in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, the gears are finally turning on a prospective plan to transform the storehouse for community use.
The Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition has been lobbying for the restoration of the Parks Department building on Stanton Street since 1994, beginning with the addition of much-needed public restrooms.
Last week, the coalition sat down for a meeting with the Parks Department to talk about the potential changes. The department has said it is attempting to unload the storehouse to facilitate the transformation.
The coalition merged with other neighborhood organizations last summer to form a "task force" to discuss potential uses for the building, including a youth center or a drop-in center for the local homeless.
The department earlier this year kicked off the design process ahead of restoring the restrooms — construction is slated to begin in fall 2018 and the bathrooms should be complete about a year later — but had remained noncommittal on the fate of the rest of the facility despite calls to turn it into a community center of sorts, saying only that it was needed for storage.
But the Parks Department's Manhattan's Borough Commissioner Bill Castro revealed at a mayoral town hall in June that the department was in fact "very sincerely looking" for a new storage facility in order to unload the Stanton Street building's supplies.
Last week, city representatives agreed to meet with the coalition, said the coalition's president, who noted that everyone is on board with transforming the building but that the obstacle of moving the storage space is preventing the project from moving forward.
"Everyone was in agreement," said Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition president Kay Webster. "The big issue is finding a space for Manhattan Parks storage"
Parks Department spokeswoman Crystal Howard said the department has not found a new storage facility but would continue to look, and also noted the Stanton Street storehouse is a "distribution hub" that is "essential for borough-wide operations."