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Base less future

The U.S. Army Reserve is set to vacate a 50,000-square foot building on Nereid Avenue. Wakefield desperately needs a recreation center. A match made in heaven?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. In order to replace the Army Reserve with a rec center, Wakefield leaders will need to navigate a confusing body of federal law. The Sgt. Joseph A. Muller Center is subject to the Base Closure Community Redevelopment and Homeless Assistance Act of 1994.

The Army Reserve has invited a Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) to manage the building’s future. The LRA consists of the borough president, the deputy mayor for economic development and the deputy mayor for health and human services. The above act requires the LRA to accommodate Wakefield’s homeless population.

On Wednesday, April 29, the LRA hosted a workshop for homeless service providers. Mary Lauro of the Wakefield Taxpayers and Civic League left the workshop distraught. According to Lauro, the Nereid building could accommodate 150 homeless people.

“There’s a limit to what the neighborhood will absorb,” she said. “Here we have a wonderful building and no rec center. And yet, people are talking about the homeless. Why?”

The LRA will hold a 7 p.m. public hearing on the building at the office of Community Board 12 on June 4. It will accept notices of intent – applications, essentially – until June 23.

After the public hearing, the LRA will conduct a homeless needs study and the three LRA members will vote to decide the building’s fate. Ronda expects the vote to take place early next year. The LRA will address neighborhood concerns, Ronda said. He’s proud to have secured the borough president a vote. The building houses more than 100 staffers and soldiers.

Father Richard Gorman of CB 12 agrees with Lauro; Wakefield must have a rec center. According to Gorman, the neighborhood is home to a large number of low-income kids. Although the city supports a handful of school-based youth initiatives in Community District 12, the north Bronx lacks a hub, an intergenerational facility.

“The kids have no place to go,” Gorman said.

Gorman will push for a rec center on Nereid Avenue – a facility to exercise and learn. CB12 has asked Mayor Michael Bloomberg for a rec center again and again.

Gorman wants the best for Wakefield homeless, he said. But a rec center on Nereid Avenue makes perfect sense. According to Lauro, the block offers few residential amenities – a gas station, an office building and a Bronx River Parkway viaduct.

“There are other north Bronx buildings that will work for the homeless, but no other buildings that will work for a rec center,” Gorman said.

According to Community Education Council president Monica Major, the neighborhood is in need of seats. A school for autistic children has inquired about the building. Bronx developer John Carlo Lanzano hoped to convert it into a supermarket but abandoned the idea for lack of parking.

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