Boys’ Club of New York (BCNY) has been selected as the recreational operator for the recently renamed Major R. Owens Health and Wellness Community Center (formerly Bedford Union Armory) in Crown Heights.

BCNY will be responsible for managing day-to-day operations for the facility and will focus its resources on youth development and community building. It will also partner with several non-profit groups that will soon occupy space in the building, and it will connect with local community groups to maximize use of the athletic areas in the Major Owens Center. 

It will also promote use of the Betty Carter Auditorium for the Arts among non-profits and community partners, New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and and BFC Partners said in a press release.

NYCEDC President and CEO Rachel Loeb said the facility would open later this year, and she was thrilled BCNY would be there for it.

“The Boys’ Club of NY brings a wealth of expertise in empowering youth throughout New York City and is a perfect complement to the other nonprofits that will take space at the Major Owens Center,” Loeb said.

The Major R. Owens Health and Wellness Community Center will soon house a 60,000 square-foot recreation center, with an indoor swimming pool, three hardwood basketball courts, an indoor soccer field, dance and performance studios, a fitness center and areas designated for boxing and archery.

The facility will also house space for local community-based non-profits, which will offer enrichment and educational programming such as coding, after-school support, athletic clinics and camps. The center will provide year-round space for entertainment and arts events and access for local artists to teach theater, film, and music. 

BCNY Executive Director Stephen Tosh said the organization was honored to be chosen to join community partners at the Major Owens Center “in this important venture.”

 “We look forward to bringing our management expertise and commitment to inclusion and equity to the rich, vibrant and diverse neighborhood of Crown Heights,” he said.

NYC Council Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo, who fought for the new center despite some community opposition, said she was “rather pleased to that Boys’ Club of New York has been selected to serve as the recreational operator.”

“BCNY brings with them years of experience, a wealth of knowledge, and a track record in effective programming, which will undoubtedly benefit the Center’s non-profit tenants and community partners,” she said.

“I say welcome to BCNY, and look forward to working together as we manifest Major Owens’ vision of a community space reflective of the beauty and history of Crown Heights.” 

Owens served central Brooklyn in the House of Representatives for 24 years, leaving the post in 2007 to pave the way for current U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke. Owens began his career as an activist for racial and social justice, and in the 1960s he worked as a librarian at Brooklyn Public Library.

He entered politics in 1974 when he won the State Senate seat for the 17th District and he held the seat until he moved to national politics, succeeding Shirley Chisholm in the House of Representatives in 1982. After his retirement from politics, he advocated for the transformation of the Bedford Union Army into a community recreation space for Crown Heights.

The Major R. Owens Health and Wellness Community Center is expected to open by the end of 2021 with the residential components of the Armory project to open in 2022 and 2023. 

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