At P.S. 32 in Gowanus, 5th graders are working on a social justice project that impacts many of the students who attend this school. It’s an awareness campaign to get the Gowanus Houses Community Center reopened by drawing posters and making videos.

“For a while now Gowanus Center has been closed and I live there,” said one student. 

“To help us reopen the Gowanus Center because I feel like that is one way we can come together and be safe,” said another. 

Except for a senior lunch program, the center hasn’t been accessible to the community for 14 years. NYCHA says the facility needs substantial renovations to fully reopen.

Five years ago, the librarian at PS 32 had an idea to speed up the process; a proposal to build a library annex project to be voted on by residents as part of the district’s participatory budgeting. Tenants organized and were able to get $475,000 allocated by the City Council for upgrades to create that annex.

“We won it and they’ve been holding onto it for a couple years now,” said Edward Trye, president of the Gowanus Houses Tenant Association. 

“It was supposed to be open and funded and it hasn’t happened yet,” said school librarian Adam Marcus.

City Councilman Steve Levin who represents the district explained the money that's held isn't nearly enough to cover the actual cost of repairs.

“The number is higher than what was allocated during participatory budgeting. Quite a bit higher. A couple million dollars higher, said Levin. 

But Levin says the de Blasio administration has committed to funding the full capital project to renovate the community center. NYCHA says the city’s Department of Design and Construction is now in the pre-design phase of the project, a project PS 32’s principal says is long overdue.

“We’re serving their children and so sometimes it’s not always about coming up to school but also being able to be there, be in their space,” said Principal Denise Watson-Adin. 

While the city estimates it needs another two and a half years to complete the center, the kids have lots of plans for the facility.

“I would like to see it used for a quiet place, a time for people to have breaks, a library and a place to have fun and be safe,” said a 5th grader. 

Until then, they'll continue to wage their awareness campaign to keep the focus on the center.