The back and forth over 211 Ainslie Street continued this week, as local leaders joined elected officials to announce the introduction of the Expedited Citizens Action Act. The new legislation, which will be introduced by Assembly Members Joe Lentol and Maritza Davila and in the Senate by Senator Martin Malave Dilan, will expedite the eminent domain process, offering a new tool to the community in their battle over the building.
211 Ainslie Street is home to the Swinging Sixties Senior Center and Small World Daycare, which have served North Brooklyn’s low and moderate-income populations since 1974, as well as Community Board 1 meetings. Every day, more than 100 seniors and 90 preschoolers, along with 70 after-school students, visit the centers.
Following the building’s November 2013 sale, the centers were notified they would have to pay drastically higher rents or vacate the site. When they refused, they were served with a 31 day vacate order by the landlords in December.
“The new landlord has made it clear that they are unwilling to preserve the senior center and daycare center,” Lentol said. “We need to take the necessary steps to ensure this center is protected. In the past, eminent domain has been utilized in countless situations to continue a justifiable public benefit, and I am sure this is one of those cases.”
Councilmember Antonio Reynoso joined Lentol to announce the introduction of the new legislation. “The City and the landlords have turned their back on our seniors and children,” he said. “In jeopardy, is a staple to North Brooklyn, its services and jobs it provides. This building was built for public good, and we must not compromise that for private interest.”
Because 211 Ainslie was constructed with public funds and has largely operated as a result of that funding, community leaders believe eminent domain is a reasonable tool city government can employ to take control of the property. The Expedited Citizen Action Act will speed up the city’s eminent domain process by eliminating the public hearing period. Current eminent domain law requires that the entity seeking to acquire a property must inform the public prior to its acquisition of the property through eminent domain. The Expedited Citizens Action Act would only apply to property built with public funds or solely occupied by a public entity/public benefit organization for the past twenty-five years.
“We applaud Assemblyman Lentol for fighting for this longtime community facility,” said Phil Caponegro, President of the Conselyea Street Block Association, the community non-profit body that operates the facility. “It’s an important step in ensuring that 211 Ainslie Street, which has been a community center for 40 years, will continue to be one for years to come.”