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PR- 213-08
June 4, 2008


Cutting-edge Workshops and Classrooms, Resource Center, 200-seat Performing Arts Venue and Expanded Administrative Space to be Built In Historic African American Community Dating Back to 1838

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin, Design and Construction Commissioner David Burney, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr., Council Member Darlene Mealy and Weeksville Heritage Center Executive Director Pam Green broke ground today on the new Education and Cultural Arts Building at the Weeksville Heritage Society's historic Hunterfly Road Houses.  The Hunterfly Road Houses are the only surviving, intact residential structures remaining of Weeksville, an African American community in Brooklyn which dates back to 1838. Weeksville was a safe haven for southern Blacks fleeing slavery and free northern Blacks fleeing racial hatred and violence in the 19th Century.  The City has committed $23 million in funding for the new 19,000 square-foot facility, which will provide a new orientation point for visitors, and will quadruple the organization's current programming space.

"New York has many historic buildings, but this is a historic community, making it a truly unique addition to our cultural and educational landscape," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Today, we open a new chapter as we begin transforming Weeksville into a cultural destination that will truly reflect the importance of the community that once stood here."

Designed by Caples Jefferson Architects, the facility will anchor the southeast end of Weeksville's site, facing the historic Hunterfly Homes, which date from 1840 to 1883 and were situated on what was Hunterfly Road, an old Native American trail and later a Dutch colonial road.  The building design and the adjacent landscape was the recipient of the Mayor's Art Commission 2005 Design Awards, and will feature a sculpture by artist Chakaia Booker, as part of the New York City "Percent for Art" program. The new building will expand Weeksville's educational offerings, and increase the public performance schedule. In addition to providing a venue for local artists, the Education and Cultural Arts Building will also create new opportunities for teaching history while engaging neighbors from Bedford-Stuyvesant and visitors from the five boroughs and throughout the world.

"This new project builds on Weeksville's commitment to bringing its extraordinary history to a contemporary audience," said Kate Levin, Commissioner of Cultural Affairs.  "Working with a terrific team of architects and designers, Pam Green and her trustees are expanding Weeksville's programs for the local community, and extending its educational reach to the thousands of researchers, students, teachers and families who visit the site each year."

"One of the most difficult architectural challenges is to add a modern building to an important historic site in a way that complements and enhances the original," said David Burney, Commissioner of Design and Construction. "Caples Jefferson's design meets that challenge with a new 21st Century building opposite the Hunterfly houses that organizes and completes the 'campus' and provides an inspiring entrance to this historic site."

Caples Jefferson's design has already garnered several awards and is expected to be granted gold-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification for its use of sustainable materials and energy efficient systems, furthering the Administration's commitment to creating a sustainable city.  This project is the next phase in Weeksville's capital plan, and builds on the successful renovation of the Hunterfly Homes.  These four historic houses, restored to three different time periods - the 1870s, 1900s and 1930s - serve as the foundation for Weeksville's transformation into an extraordinary cultural campus.

"This is an exciting time for Weeksville. We are on the verge of becoming the premier African American cultural institution in Brooklyn and one of the largest African American institutions in New York," said Pamela Green, Weeksville's Executive Director. "Weeksville has infinite potential as long as we stay true to our mission and vision, the heart of which is making sure the world knows our true history."

The new building will include:

  • Exhibition space for both permanent and rotating exhibits.
  • Cutting-edge workshops and classrooms for programs, which range from an acclaimed teen writing workshop to genealogy classes, from programs in gardening and folk arts, to courses on historic preservation, both for homeowners and for young people developing job skills.
  • A Resource Center for educators and scholars, where research will be conducted and disseminated, curricula developed and teachers trained.
  • A performing arts 200-seat venue that will bring top-notch dance, theatre, and musical events to the neighborhood.
  • Essential programming, research, and administrative space for staff and food services and rest areas.

"Today, Brooklyn is blessed to have the largest African-American community of any county in America that is not its own city, and it's fitting that our borough was also home to one of the first free African-American communities in this nation," said Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President. "I am proud to be able to join the Mayor in ensuring that Joan Maynard's dream comes true, with this exciting new education and cultural arts building that will ensure children of every ethnicity and culture, as well as tourists and visitors alike, learn the inspiring story of these bold early Brooklynites who achieved against great odds every human being's goal and right---to live in freedom."

"Weeksville was and remains a model of African-American entrepreneurial success, political freedom and intellectual creativity," said Councilman Domenic M. Recchia, Jr., chairman of the Committee on Cultural Affairs.  "Now, with the groundbreaking of their brand new educational and cultural building, they will continue that success and preserve the history of this important institution, both for Brooklyn and the entire city."

"I am excited about this new addition to the Weeksville Heritage Center. Education is one of the most important issues in our community today. It is my hope that our district will be enriched by the services that will be offered in the new education center," said Council Member Darlene Mealy.


Stu Loeser / John Gallagher   (212) 788-2958

Kate deRosset   (Department of Cultural Affairs)
(212) 487-4283

Danielle M. Officer (Weeksville Heritage Center)   (718) 623-0600 x306

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