NEW YORK—To help combat rising obesity rates in Brooklyn’s youth, two armories in the borough are slated to be transformed into gym-like health centers for youth.
Council member Letitia James and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz are working together to provide a space to focus on educating and providing young people with the means to live a healthy lifestyle.
“There is simply no excuse for Brooklynites not getting enough healthy, nourishing meals or access to recreation and exercise,” Markowitz said.
“There’s not been much investment in things they [young people] like to do,” James said. The proposed centers, one in Crown Heights and the other in Bedford Stuyvesant, would provide students with a space for athletic activities like dance groups and boxing clubs, James said, as well as after-school activities related to nutrition education.
A study into the potential uses for the Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights was released last month. The report, compiled by NYU Wagner Capstone, suggested converting the armory’s drill house into a recreation center, a sports-specific complex, or an entertainment venue. The head house could become a community center, providing services to youth, or the elderly, or could even house a day care center.
The Park Slope Armory was the first in Brooklyn to be converted, becoming a YMCA two years ago. The facility now boasts 20,000 member families, according to a Crains New York report.
Community Board 3 has been pushing to convert part of the Sumner Armory in Bedford Stuyvesant into a community center. The project is still in its initial stages, and board chairman Henry L. Butler acknowledged at a meeting in December 2010, that converting an armory can be a very long process. The Park Slope Armory took between five and eight years to complete, he said.
The Sumner Armory, on Marcus Garvey and Jefferson avenues, currently houses homeless men.
Markowitz has put aside $2 million to improve both armories.
Obesity in low-income areas
Obesity is particularly high in low-income and minority communities because of factors like poverty, stress, and lack of access to health care. The most combatable and prevalent factor, however, is inactivity, James said.
Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2008, more than one-third of children and adolescents nationwide were overweight or obese.
Health and wellness organizations and elected officials gathered in Brooklyn Wednesday to discuss both city and borough-wide initiatives to combat obesity and increase physical activity. The event was part of a new campaign called Let’s Move! Brooklyn, inspired by first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! health initiative.
The community leaders discussed other ways to fight obesity, such as providing supermarket grants and training programs to educate communities on how to grow and cook their own food.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn supported the cause, and the direction Let’s Move! Brooklyn was taking.
“This organization’s mission speaks directly to our city’s obesity epidemic and together we will all fight to find solutions that will improve the health and wellness of all New Yorkers, especially for our residents in low-income communities,” Quinn said.
Positive youth programsDavon Vernon, 20, a member of El Puente, a community-based arts organization in Brooklyn, said more youth programs would benefit young people physically, and at the same time youth could invest their energy in positive things.
Vernon said El Puente was encouraging young people to expand their horizons. “We have our own gardens … we’ve done murals, block parties, to show youth how to use their artistic skills to better the community.”
Upcoming events for Let’s Move! Brooklyn include the 10th annual Lighten Up Brooklyn health fair at Brooklyn Borough Hall Thursday, and a “Get Fit” Health Walk at Brooklyn Bridge Park Aug. 19, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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