The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

This Could Be Huge: Open House Monday

 Did I use the word huge? I meant HUGE. HUGE.

An opportunity of epic proportions is brewing for our community - for local youth, families, non-profit groups. Heck, for the future of this part of the borough, I can think of nothing bigger.

I'm talking about the Armory. Not the Park Avenue Armory. Or the Park Slope Armory. Or even the Bedford Atlantic Armory. I'm talking about OUR Armory, which happens to also have a Bedford Avenue address (ours is at Union Street, rather than the more infamous homeless shelter cum maybe something else at Bedford and Atlantic). They're calling it the Bedford Union Armory in some quarters, like that there Facebook page. But we're just at the beginning point of figuring out what this thing will mean to us, so please, take advantage of the following amazing opportunity to get in on the ground floor. And in this case, the ground floor is absofrigginlutely enormous:

Marty and Medgar (Markowitz and Evers) are inviting us all to come and look at the armory's insides this Monday the 9th from 8 to 5, then join in a town hall meeting at the college to discuss its future. Here's the flyer:

You might be one of those that doesn't think of Crown Heights South as part of your neighborhood, but that's a shame, since half of us "Q at Parksiders" are part of the same precinct (the 71st) and Community Board (the 9th) and school district (the 17th) as the Armory. And the massive structure is really close by bus, train, walking, biking etc. Empire Blvd has some mystifying psychological effect on people. We, south of Empire, share elected officials with the area north of Empire (and south of Eastern Parkway), so frankly, our future is way more tied to CHS than newcomers from points west might want to admit. (Want to know why I'm so obsessed with idea of neighborhood boundaries? That's why! It's friggin complicated! And in many ways, invented.)

Here's what the Armory looked like more than 120 years ago:

And today:

The history of these armories in this country is a fascinating post-in-offing unto itself. I grew up near one, with very similar architecture, way out in God's country, my hometown of Ames, Iowa. The country is full of 'em, and retrofitting them has become a big question, and big business, all over the place. Some municipalities tear them down. The short version of the armory saga is that these were (and in many cases still are) the homes of various National Guard units, or state militias, often known for their response to natural disasters, but also known for getting "called up" for wars like the one on "terror," or for beating down rebellions and insurrections (or conversely, once "federalized," Alabama National Guard troops helped make sure that black students could enroll at the University of Alabama in 1963, showing George Wallace who REALLY had the power, thank you JFK). The framers were understandably wary of large standing armies, so these "people's militias" were supposed to be a more democratic alternative. (Not sure I understand the mechanism here, except that there seems to be an extra step of "federalizing" the Guard that could keep a despotic Army general from being the only one with troops. And if the President got maniacal, maybe the governor could keep his Guard from going to the dark side? Am I understanding this right? Seems fascinating all of a sudden, where I never really cared before.)

In any regard, the City is taking control of OUR armory soon, and what we do with it will go a long way towards defining who we are, and what are our priorities. Community spaces, sports, arts...what say ye?


babs said...

Unfortunately I won't be able to make it, but I am so glad that this is in Tish James's City Council district (as opposed to you-know-who). Tish has already solicited ideas from her constituents and is pushing for a community athletic facility - would be great to have something like the Y at the Park Slope armory.

Ceelledee said...

Totally agree with you, Babs, on all counts. Thank goodness this project is situated in Tish's district(as opposed to I-know-who, unfortunately!) And, yes, I had been thinking that an affordable, accessible community gym would be great in this location.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I got to see this yesterday just as it was closing. Thanks for the Q tip. This is a tremendous opportunity for the neighborhood!