GOWANUS — After more than 10 years of sitting idle, the city will breathe life back into the Gowanus Houses Community Center with funds for youth programming, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced Wednesday evening at a Brooklyn town hall.
The Cornerstone Youth Program, run by the Department of Youth and Community Development, will finance the center's activities and free up city funds tangled in bureaucracy to renovate the run-down space and revitalize it as a community hub.
"If we want our young people going on the right path, we have to give them positive options," said de Blasio. "We have to give them after-school, we have to give them summer recreation programs. If we’re going to follow through on that vision we actually have to make the opportunity available."
Cornerstone will bring back the programs — which include tutoring, college prep and recreational activities like dance, wrestling and soccer — but the city is still in the midst of searching for a nonprofit that will facilitate the activities, Councilman Stephen Levin told DNAinfo New York.
In the meantime, the center is in dire need of upgrades and the $475,000 allocated to renovate the building through Levin's 2014 participatory budgeting process will be used to overhaul the space by the end of 2021, said NYCHA spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie.
"We will be simultaneously looking for a provider so that when construction is complete – we can start programming right away," explained Lapeyrolerie.
The news comes as a big step in the right direction for advocates who have called on the city to permanently reopen the center and find programming operators for years.
"I'm really excited — this means so much to our community," said Ijaaza El, a Gowanus Houses resident. "The youth, the seniors, we'll all have our space again."
At the moment, the center is temporarily open after the Fifth Avenue Committee cobbled together enough to cover insurance and other costs of running the site since August. But the space is set to shutter again come December.