The community tried to stop it, but the wheels are officially in motion for a new five-story building that will replace a day-care center that was forced to close last month after nearly 40 years in Williamsburg.
According to an application filed with the Department of Buildings, the structure that will replace the Bushwick United Learning Center at 152 Manhattan Avenue will house 22 apartment units, commercial space and a community facility.
Roughly one-fifth of the building’s 28,000 square feet is designated for the community facility, which New York City Zoning defines as a space providing “educational, health, recreation, religious, or other essential services for the community it serves.” Another one-fifth is commercial and the remaining three-fifths residential.
A representative for the developer, Leo Kefkowitz, said we would just have to “wait and see” what the community facility aspect of the plan might be.
In November of last year, families of the more than 100 children receiving services at the center rallied in protest after the owner of the building decided not to renew his lease with the Agency for Child Services. Families were concerned about their neighborhood’s lack of alternative options for affordable early childhood education; Bushwick United has eight other branches in Brooklyn, but none of them are within walking distance of the old facility.
The education center is currently searching for a new building in the same neighborhood, according to Edna Feliciano, Educational Director for Bushwick United. In the meantime, she’s relieved to report that none of the children suffered a lapse in education; another branch was expanded to provide two new classrooms, and they moved the children in on December 15, just 16 days before they would have been evicted. Other children were dispersed among the other branches, and those who were old enough moved on to other Universal Pre-K programs.
Feliciano said it was difficult handing over the keys last Monday; her voice cracked as she described how much the kids mean to her, but she remains optimistic. “We have a very close connection with our families,” she said. “It’s hard, but it makes [that bond] stronger.” For now, the community is left to wonder what, exactly, will take the center’s place. Guess they’ll just have to “wait and see.”