Greenpoint Gazette

Will Swinging Sixties Be Saved by New Legislation?

BY Tanay Warerkar

Amid the onslaught of senior centers and childcare service facilities closing in North Brooklyn in recent years, there is finally some reprieve.

Assemblyman Joe Lentol announced that the New York State Assembly passed legislation that would authorize the Empire State Development Corporation, the state’s chief economic agency to purchase 211 Ainslie Street, the building that houses the Swinging Sixties Senior Center and Small World Day Care Center, through eminent domain proceedings.

“The new landlord has made it clear that they are unwilling to preserve the senior center and day care center,” said Lentol. “We must take the necessary steps to ensure this center is protected. This property was built with substantial public funds for the express purpose of serving the public good. This legislation seeks to protect that investment. By passing this legislation we are telling the landlord that we mean business. We will take the property back if we have to.”

The property was purchased by developers Victor and Harry Einhorn in November 2013 for $4.5 million. They subsequently increased rent by 250 percent, according to St. Nicks Alliance, which runs the Swinging Sixties and Small World programs. The duo asked for over $10 million if the property were to be sold.

The centers opened in 1974, and continue to receive hundreds of seniors and children from the neighborhood everyday. The center also plays host to the monthly Community Board 1 meetings.

As rents began to escalate in the neighborhood, forcing the programs’ operators, St Nicks, and the Conselyea Street Block Association, to consider their options, various elected officials chipped in to ensure the center remained open.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and his deputy Diana Reyna, Councilmember Antonio Reynoso and former Council Speaker Christine Quinn have all contributed millions to ensure the centers smooth running.

Now the legislation passed in the Assembly might offer some form of long-term relief.

“We’re ecstatic! Thanks to Assemblyman Joe Lentol for his work,” said Phil Caponegro, Chair of the Conselyea Street Block Association. “We are still hoping that this will pass the New York State Senate, but Eminent Domain passing the Assembly is one more positive thing toward securing 211 Ainslie Street.”

Empire State, for its part, did not substantiate on the next steps.

“ESD does not comment on ongoing legislation,” is all a spokesperson for the agency had to say.

UPDATE

On Tuesday, June 16, the legislation authorizing the Empire State Development Corporation to acquire the property at the corner of 211 Ainslie Street passed in the State Senate.

It is now just a signature away from becoming law.

“This was a last-gasp measure to save an invaluable and irreplaceable community resource,” said State Senator Martin Dilan, sponsor of the Senate bill. “The case for 211 Ainslie Street is clear, it provides important social and community services built for the public with public money.”

Having passed the Senate, the bill now gets submitted to Governor Andrew Cuomo for approval.

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