A long-vacant firehouse that has sat collecting dust for years has not lost its importance to many residents of Williamsburg. Now, thanks to help from a community group, it just might get a second lease on life.
The Firehouse North Brooklyn Community Center seeks to convert the old firehouse at 134 Wythe Avenue into a community center for Williamsburg that will serve as a hub for community advocacy and social justice, alongside featuring original arts and culture programming. The effort to convert the firehouse into a community headquarters goes back at least to 2007, when the city put out a request for proposals, as we reported at the time.
The firehouse, which was built in the 19th century, was dubbed the “People’s Firehouse” in the 1970s after a group of determined Williamsburgers protested its imminent closure by holing up inside the building for months without leaving, which successfully saved the fire company. The firehouse closed for good in 2003.
The building has lovely high ceilings and ornate original tin ceilings, and will need some sprucing up before it’s ready for use. The Firehouse North Brooklyn Community Center has a full vision to repurpose all parts of the important space.
The first floor, where the fire trucks once parked, will be turned into a performance and gathering space. The second floor will host offices for the community group, and the third floor is being considered as a flexible space that will be awarded to groups in Williamsburg who contribute to the community.
Time is running out, however. The group has until June to raise $250,000 toward its fundraising goal of $2.8 million, said Diana Zelvin, Firehouse North Brooklyn Community Center’s development director.
If they can do it, the city will transfer the property to the community group and contribute $1.092 million to the cause, and the state will provide $650,000.
Major supporters of the project include Borough President Eric Adams, U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney, and real estate developer Toby Moskowits, who is spearheading a major office development nearby.
Once the group owns the building, the redevelopment process will take around two years, Zelvin said.
The firehouse sits in an area of Williamsburg that was rezoned in 2005, leading to an explosion of new buildings. It is close to some of the newest developments in Williamsburg, including the William Vale Hotel (among several new lodging spots), and Bushwick Inlet Park. Williamsburg has become a destination in need of community gathering space, said Zelvin. Particularly with the L train shutdown looming, a new community center could serve as a catalyst for the neighborhood’s next phase, she added.
To learn more about the plan to redevelop the firehouse or to donate to the capital campaign, visit the group’s website.
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