Store no More: It’s Time to Reactivate ‘Stanton Building’ in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Locals Say
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For decades, the city has hogged the so-called “Stanton Building” situated at the trail head of Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Its current use is Parks Department storage and de-facto parking lot for city vehicles. Since 1994, though, the eponymous Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition has fought to reactivate this structure for community accessibility. Efforts to do so are finally gaining some traction.
The onsite public bathrooms may soon reopen, thanks to an allocation of $1 million in city funding. Councilwoman Margaret Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer helped make that happen, which should curb the excess exrement consistently found in the park. Renovations are currently in the design phase.
But local activists remain laser-focused on the end-game. Eye on the prize – returning and re-energizing the building for the community. The nascent Stanton Building Task Force, an outgrowth of the Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coaltion, is spearheading the latest effort with a series of visioning sessions on its future. Today is the first event (full schedule below) in tandem with “It’s My Park Day.” Such efforts to rescue the facility are backed by Community Board 3, yet staunchly opposed by the Parks Department due to purported lack of alternative options.
“The building should serve its original purpose as a space for the neighborhood to use for the public good as it was intended (and the Manhattan Park’s Commissioner has agreed in theory, they just don’t know where to put the storage),” Coalition president Kathleen Webster tells us. “We have large organizations that have the capacity to program it; we have $1 million in funding from electeds to put the bathrooms in. And still waiting. It’s a lousy storage space (hence the large container alongside it) but a great potential public facility.”
It’s gonna be a long road ahead, for sure, but not impossible. After all, the BRC’s Senior Services Center down on Delancey was similarly returned to the community in the 1980s after years of sitting empty and without funding.
The Stanton Building once upon a time housed a youth center, but became a Parks storehouse in the 1980s. There were promises from the Parks commish in the mid-1990s to hand back the property, but that never happened. A subsequent article in the Village Voice from that period – “How the Other Half Plays” (not online) – summed up the situation:
“That building there is a warehouse for city supplies, but we can’t get a mop out of there if we want one” [longtime park advocate Bob] Humber says. That should change when the warehouse becomes a rec center with Ping-Pong tables, a nursery, a theater and a “safe haven” program for neighborhood kids. “We’ve been waiting for so long, now we just can’t wait till it happens…”