NYC Multi-Million Dollar Recreation Center Named for Late Caribbean American Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm

NEW YORK, New York – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Parks Commissioner Gabrielle Fialkoff have previewed the planned programming elements and amenities for a brand-new US$141 million recreational center in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York in honor of the late Caribbean American Congresswoman Shirley A. Chisholm. 

mockupccMockup of the Shirley A. Chisholm Community Center.The officials were joined by New York City’s Department of Design and Construction Acting Commissioner Thomas J. Foley, New York State Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, City Council Member Farah Louis and community members.  

“Shirley Chisholm understood that power comes from the people,” said Mayor de Blasio. “Today, we’re honoring this trailblazing Congresswoman with a new community center that will serve the residents of East Flatbush for generations to come.” 

Shirley Anita Chisholm, née St. Hill, the daughter of a Guyanese father and Barbadian mother, was born on November 30, 1924 and died on January 1, 2005.

In 1968, Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress, representing New York’s then 12th Congressional District, encompassing the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

Chisholm represented that district for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. In the 1972 US Presidential Election, she became the first Black candidate to run for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. SHchishoShirley Chisholm. (Photo: Pictorial Parade/Getty Images)

“As we look to the future of New York City, we must honor our roots by celebrating the trailblazers who have made today’s progress possible,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been. 

“Shirley Chisholm was a Brooklyn-born titan who, despite constant discrimination, led a movement that changed the face of our nation,” she added. “It is an honor to celebrate her legacy by uplifting the residents of Central Brooklyn and, specifically, East Flatbush community.”

Fialkoff said Chisholm’s history-making achievements “blew open the doors of opportunity for millions of women and people of color across the country. 

“Now, we honor her legacy with a project that will strengthen the Central Brooklyn communities she served for so many decades, the forthcoming Shirley Chisholm Recreation Center,” she said. “We are proud to make good on a promise to East Flatbush and bring a much-needed and well-deserved community hub to the heart of this neighborhood. 

“Thank you to Mayor de Blasio for providing the vision for a more equitable city, to our partners at the Department of Design and Construction who are managing this project for us, and of course, Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn and City Council Member Farah Louis,” Fialkoff added. “The amenities and programs offered here will help build community, families, and provide new opportunities for all people in this neighborhood.”

Foley said: “We’re honored to be part of a project that celebrates the great civil rights icon Shirley Chisholm while bringing much-needed recreation opportunities to the community.

“The team of designers and builders that the city selects for this project will be contractually obligated to complete the new Center by the end of 2025, a two-year reduction in the standard timeline for a City capital project of this size thanks to the use of the design-build method of construction management,” he added. “We look forward to bringing the advantages of design-build to more and more City projects.” 

Brooklyn Borough President and New York City Mayor-Elect Eric Adams said: “It’s time for East Flatbush to get the incredible community center it has long deserved. 

“The Shirley Chisholm Recreation Center, named for our borough’s truly visionary leaders, will foster the next generation of leaders through their use of this empowering space,” he said. “My administration is proud to have invested in this meaningful project, in partnership with City Hall and our local elected officials, that will be central to making this community a safer and greater place to raise healthy children and families.” 

“The Shirley Chisholm Recreation Center, featuring the Dr. Roy Hastick media lab, will be the new hub of community activity and engagement for central Brooklyn,” said Haitian American Bichotte-Hermelyn, chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, referring to the late Grenadian founder and chair of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CACCI). 

“And, as we commemorate these trailblazers, let’s also work to make sure their ideals live on, beginning by encouraging contractors who are underrepresented in their fields to apply to become part of the team that is designing and building this project,” added the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn. “In the spirit of equity, we must encourage MWBEs (Minority/Women-owned Business Enterprises), and operate workforce development programs that uplift the whole community. 

“At the new recreation center, youth and seniors alike will benefit from the range of activities available to them without having to leave their neighborhoods,” Bichotte-Hermelyn continued. “I thank the mayor, Council Member Farah Louis, and all who made this recreation center possible.”

Louis – another daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the 45th Council District, the area where the Shirley Chisholm Recreation Center will be located – said the center is “a dream come true for so many of us who were raised and still live in this community. 

“It is symbolic of what we can achieve when we unify, and work collaboratively towards a common good,” she said. “This center means so much to so many people who never thought this day would come.”

On completion, the mayor said the state-of the art recreation center will offer a host of programming offerings and amenities to encourage learning, recreation, and community and civic engagement. 

He said the center’s features will include multipurpose rooms, a gymnasium, walking track, indoor swimming pool, fitness, strength, and cardio rooms, and a teaching kitchen. 

The center will also include a media lab named in honor of Dr. Hastick, who served on a number of economic development and community boards to advocate on behalf of the East Flatbush community, de Blasio said. 

He said the project is a part of the Department of Design and Construction’s new Design-Build program for public buildings. 

The mayor said the contract award is expected in Spring 2022 with project completion by the end of 2025, “a two-year reduction in the standard city project timeline thanks to Design-Build.” 

De Blasio said Chisholm’s “contributions to her community and country are reflective of her desire to affect change.” 

In 1983, Chisholm retired from the US Congress and taught at Mount Holyoke College – a private liberal arts women’s college in South Hadley, Massachusetts – while continuing her political organizing. 

Although nominated for an ambassadorship in 1993, health issues forced Chisholm to withdraw. In 2015, she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Chisholm’s father, Charles Christopher St. Hill, was born in Guyana before moving to Barbados. He migrated to New York City, via Antilla, Cuba, in 1923.

Her mother, Ruby Seale, was born in Christ Church, Barbados, and migrated to New York City in 1921.