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Board 6 to Park Slope Armory: Open wide

When it finally opens its doors to the public, the Park Slope Armory must do so as widely as possible, Community Board 6 urged last week.

At its Dec. 9 meeting, the board approved a motion calling upon the yet-to-open facility to create a fee schedule making the armory as accessible to “as many segments of the community as possible.”

The YMCA-run, $16 million facility is expected to generate revenue from individual membership fees, which will be $40 a month for adults.

But the fear among some board members is that the fees may be too great of burden for some to bear. “There are a lot of people who have waited to get in here,” said Nica Lalli, chair of the board’s Parks Committee. “Keep it as wide as possible so everyone can come through the front door.”

Sean Andrews, the executive director of the Prospect Park Y, which will operate the renovated facility, said that the armory’s fee structure will be affordable, and that no one will be turned away based on their ability to pay. “I appreciate [the board’s] sentiment, but this has been the centerpiece of our thinking all along, and won’t change our approach as to how we are opening or managing the facility.”

The YMCA was selected last year to operate the recreational portion of the facility by the city’s Department of Homeless Services, and signed a 10-year contract with the city last June. The agency will continue to maintain a small women’s shelter inside the building, located at 1402 Eighth Avenue.Andrews said the armory will be ready to open some time in January 2010.

Board 6 also passed a motion calling on the city’s Department of Education to pay a fair share of the ongoing overhead expenses accrued by the facility, since local schools will have exclusive access to the public facility during certain hours and select weekends, an agreement that “would effectively be taking away from the rest of the community,” according to Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman.

Andrews nixed that suggestion. “We are not making any request of that nature,” he said, adding that at no point since he’s been involved with the armory has the Y been promised additional financial resources from the DOE. “We are hopeful that over the next couple of years that as we offer programs to local schools, we’ll have the opportunity to generate revenue from these activities,” he said.

Andrews continued, “We are eager to partner with local school and the Department of Education. From the Y’s perspective, we understood this was part of the mechanics of operating the facility.”

The armory will cost roughly $1 million a year to operate, money that will go to items such as staff salaries, maintenance and equipment. “Our goal is to have revenue sources to support that and allow us to offer innovative programs,” Andrews said.

The 140,000 square foot facility’s grand opening has been delayed numerous times, to the frustration of those itching to make use of the state-of-the-art track-and-field center, basketball courts, and other amenities. The city has been working to revamp eight classrooms in the facility, which has causedthe recent delays.

Richard Bashner, chair of CB 6 explained the rationale behind the board’s motions. “This is a public facility built at a huge expense to the city. The idea is to get the most out of it as possible,” he said.

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