Assemblymember Stefani L. Zinerman kicked off the reimagining of the 13th Regiment Armory on April 12 Credit: Contributed

Last month Assemblymember Stefani L. Zinerman kicked off the re-imagining of the 13th Regiment Armory, a massive historic building in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn that’s the second largest armory in New York City.

Longtime Bed Stuy resident Donna Williams, 68, from Age Friendly Central Brooklyn, said she remembers going to a dance held at the armory as a high school teen. “I’m very excited about bringing the armory back as a place for the neighborhood,” said Williams.

The feasibility study officially sources community input on what should happen with the historical landmark and is funded by a $125,000 state grant from the Urban Development Corporation Aid to Localities Appropriations.
Patch reported that the grant was first secured under former Assemblymember Tremaine Wright to cover costs for zoning analysis, design and construction estimates. Officials wanted to study the rest of the armory’s potential back in 2013, said Patch. Only part of the space houses the Pamoja House Men’s Shelter.

“I feel blessed that I was elected and able to pick up the baton that was passed, this means so much to our community,” said Zinerman.

The feasibility team is being led by Urbane Development, a local team in Brooklyn of Black-owned developers and architects that have also worked on the redevelopment of Flatbush Caton Market in Flatbush. Zinerman clarified that Urbane is not officially the developer handling the physical renovation of the project yet.

Zinerman said that amenities and access needs to be modernized and the building made more clean energy efficient, but other than that, she is happy to keep the facade the way it is because of its historic design.

The Marcus Garvey Armory, or the 13th Regiment Armory, was home to Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War and was originally designed in 1894. The soldiers themselves were essentially the city’s national guard.

They were deployed in the Civil War, suppressed the lynching of Black residents during New York City’s Draft Riots of 1863, and fought in the Spanish-American War in 1898, according to the feasibilty study.

In the 1900s, the armory was big enough to hold track meets and for soldiers to play baseball indoors. It still covers about 2.62 acres of land and extends a full block between Jefferson and Putnam Avenues, said the study.

Zinerman marveled at the sheer size of it, saying that it had an Olympic-sized pool, full sized bowling alley, shooting range and stables at one point. Though she doubts all of that can stay. She said ideally she’d like to see agriculture or a growing space focused on health and wellness included in what she imagines will be a lively recreational and arts space. Other ideas include a boarding school and housing for foster care children aging out of the system.

Zinerman said she is not looking to build hundreds of units of housing or displace the homelessness service run by Black Veterans For Social Justice. She believes that a space should always be available for transitional housing and wrap around services for individuals who need it.

“It is something that I have been wanting to see happen for a very long time and I’m so happy that we have begun the process,” said Zinerman. “Being a member of this community I am certainly in touch with what people would like to see. We’ve talked about it at cafes and community meetings over the years.”

Williams said she’d like to see a public pool, handicap-accessible bathrooms, and a gym for the neighborhood’s many seniors at the armory. “It definitely needs to be made age-friendly,” said Williams about the armory’s potential design. “Just in terms of being able to enter the building or having access ramps. Even a little step when you have mobility problems can be a mountain to you.”

Zinerman said she’s hoping to move onto funding phase two of the project in this year’s state budget.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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