Brooklyn Borough Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey told Our Time Press that it was decided to turn North Bed-Stuy’s Herbert Von King Cultural Center into one of the city’s star attractions utilizing non-profit cultural community based organizations (CBO) to run the programming.
Community Board 3 chair Henry Butler, who is charged with reaching out to local CBOs, said the community board intends to contact arts organizations looking for space to run the programs. (Publisher’s Note: Community-based arts organizations should contact the community board with their information. )
“Bed-Stuy is a very prideful community and we don’t feel the need to reach out to other communities to help this district,” said Butler.
The plan also includes replacing the current culinary program with one involving local culinary groups, bringing back a popular ceramics program, which was cut a few months ago, and refurbishing the theater with an allocation through Vann’s office.
“A design is on its way and by this fall we will present a plan to the Community Board,” said a Parks Department spokesperson.
When asked if the Parks Department would lay off the roughly eight workers and two volunteers who now run the center, Jeffrey replied, “At the moment, there is no plan to lay off any Von King staff.”
Councilman Al Vann’s spokesperson Mandela Jones said he doesn’t believe there will be any job cuts.
“The Parks Department (which has been) losing staff through attrition, (wants) to make sure they have appropriate staff in that center and, to that extent, the non-profit CBOs can provide service,” Jones said.
There is room for improvement and for the center to grow, Jones added.
A concerned community resident and friend of Von King Park said, “I don’t think using CBOs is a good idea. What will happen in the long run is (these cultural arts groups) will come in and bring their own staff. Then what happens to the Parks Department workers already working there?”
The source maintained that hundreds of people utilize the center every week ranging from kids in after-school programs to teens attending dance, karate and cooking programs to seniors utilizing the computer and exercise areas.
The announcement to solicit interest from CBOs comes two weeks after Our Time Press exclusively reported the city secretly slashed the weekday hours at the Cultural Center from 10 am to 9 pm weekdays to 10 am to 7 pm.
The new hours are from 12-noon until 8:30 pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and from 10 am to 8:30 pm on Tuesday and Thursdays to accommodate a morning shape-up program for seniors, Jeffrey said.
The Saturday hours will remain from 9 am to 5 pm.
The center, built on a site that once housed a public library, is located in the popular eight-acre Herbert Von King Park bounded by Greene, Lafayette, Tompkins and Marcy Avenues and serves dozens of elementary children in an after school program, teens after 6 pm, and seniors at various times.
The center is a true neighborhood space that includes an amphitheater that hosts popular concerts in the summer, a computer lab, a homework room, a large full kitchen, a ceramics and pottery area, and a large indoor stage theater.