Soon, the historic site in Brooklyn will become home to North Brooklyn’s first town hall, appropriately named North Brooklyn’s Town Hall and Community and Cultural Center.
Last Tuesday, September 27, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Councilman Stephen Levin announced that more recently acquired funding will help transform the site.
With a total cost of about $2 million to help bring about the changes, Markowitz has allocated $742,000 in capital funds and Levin has secured $350,000 to go toward more than two-thirds of the construction.
Assemblyman Joe Lentol, who was also present at the announcement in front of the Wythe Street building, was among the first to back the transformation financially. He secured funds for the building prior, which opened it up for additional funding.
Lentol noted that the project has received other funding from local businesses, such as Broadway Stages and the Brooklyn Brewery. He also noted that the fundraising efforts are now $200,000 short of being reached, though it won’t be an easy feat.
The historic former firehouse – known as “The People’s Firehouse” after local protests and an 18-month-long occupation saved the company in the 1970s – was closed in 2003 and put up for auction by the city.
But Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) and People’s Firehouse, Inc., had a dream for the space when it was shuttered. After responding to a Request for Proposal (RFP) by the city, both organizations were chosen, allowing the space to continue serving North Brooklyn.
The two have been spearheading a project to convert the building into the Northside Town Hall Community and Cultural Center ever since.
The Town Hall will be a public meeting space, arts and performance venue, and permanent home to community organizations. It will serve as the ideal space for discussion, planning and action.
“It’s an appropriate place because of the number of protests that have happened here in the past,” Lentol said, adding that he is glad to see that it will also be a place where local artists can show off their talent. “It really is the first of its kind.”
Levin is confident that when the Northside Town Hall opens, it will “quickly become the center of North Brooklyn civic life.”
“The Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods are infused with the spirit of community engagement and I can’t imagine that the future Town Hall will be anything less that the full reflection of those values,” he said.
Markowitz is already envisioning the soon-to-be transformed space as having something for everyone.
“Someday in the not-very-distant future, the Northside Town Hall Community and Cultural Center will be a hub of activity for all of North Brooklyn,” he said. “A place for families and kids, a place where organizations and non-profits can find affordable office and meeting space, and a place for local artists to exhibit their work.”
The next phase after the funds are raised will involve the city granting the People’s Firehouse site control, which will then allow for the first phases of construction to begin.