United Community Wins 5 Yr Fight
Victory at long last! North Brooklyn seniors, children, and community members finally can call 211 Ainslie Street their own. On June 22nd St. Nicks Alliance and Conselyea Street Block Association closed on the acquisition of the building after nearly five years.
“This victory is a miracle!” Michael Rochford, Exec. Dir. of St. Nicks Alliance and announced to the parents and children of Small World Child Care at their “Stepping Up” ceremony. He went on to note the leadership of the Conselyea Street Block Association’s (CSBA) board, led by Phil Caponegro (Chair) and Frank Citera (Vice Chair), were persistent in their efforts and have been engaged in every twist and turn along with Frank Lang (St. Nicks Alliance, Dir. Housing) who put together the financing plan were critical contributors to the successful outcome.
Echoing that sentiment, “This was an impossible task that with a great deal of persistence, talent and commitment has been realized. It goes to show what can be realized when we all put our minds and effort to such an important cause. Today is a day we can all be very proud of this very significant accomplishment,” said Joseph Robles, St. Nicks Alliance Board Chair. St Nicks Board backed the finance acquisition plan.
The up and down battle was negotiated by a fabulous team of lawyers: Marc Aronson, Greg Messer, and Brooklyn Legal Services. Each lent their expertise to a particular aspect in different parts of the campaign.
Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna sparked the effort to save 211 Ainslie Street back when she was a council member. She mentioned how nine persistent women, which included Janice Peterson and Tillie Tarantino, started the center forty years ago,
“They saw a need in the community and they addressed it, even though they didn’t know how they would succeed. Believe in the power of people. When people come together anything is possible.”
This campaign took a positive turn when Councilman Antonio Reynoso led a rally and was arrested to bring attention to the project. Councilman Reynoso told parents and seniors on Friday “I pledged all of my capital dollars this year to 211 Ainslie I felt that strongly that we needed to save this important institution.” Reynoso was joined by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. BBP Adams and Council Member Reynoso have allocated a total of $5M ($1.5M and $3.5 respectively) and St. Nicks Alliance secured the balance of the total project ($10.5M). Some of the funds will go to immediate repairs to the building, including elevator, roof and water systems as the previous owner purposefully neglected its maintenance. There will be additional fundraising required for a redesign of the rooms to bring building to full use.
The most important players in this fight were the community. Neighbors young through elder and community leaders came out time after time, year after year, rally after rally, to show their support that a facility like 211 Ainslie is necessary. The community was unified that the building was to remain community centered. Council Member Reynoso, Brooklyn Borough President Adams, and Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Reyna led the effort to victory and were aided by the support of Congresswomen Maloney and Velazquez, Senator Martin Malavé Dilan, Assemblywoman Maritza Davila, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, and Council Member Stephen Levin.
There will be a public celebration details to be announced, but until then the public is celebrating on their own.
“This is truly great moment to celebrate the strength and solidarity of the Williamsburg/Greenpoint Community in coming together to fight for this building that means so much to so many over the past few years I would to underscore the efforts of the hundreds of seniors, child care parents, local businesses, Community Board 1 and the original women from the neighborhood who had a vision and developed the center back in 1975,” said Janice Peterson, Chair of Huairou Commission/ Neighborhood Women.