Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Council Candidate Craig Hammerman Envisions Park Slope Arts Center to Rival P.S. 1

Democratic City Council Candidate Craig Hammerman announced today his plan to bring Brooklyn artists and residents together by creating a mixed-use arts and learning center in Park Slope.

Hammerman’s plan envisions revitalizing the St. Thomas Aquinas School at 4th Avenue and 8th Street, which was closed down in June 2005, as the Aquinas Arts Center, much in the same vein that Long Island City’s P.S. 1 was turned into one of Queens’ hottest attractions and best loved museums.

“The future prosperity of our neighborhoods depends in large part upon supporting the cultural soul of our community,” said Hammerman, who in addition to running for Council in the 39th District, is also the longtime district manager of Community Board 6. “This area needs a non-profit contemporary community arts center that pulls together and showcases the finest our neighborhoods have to offer.”

With an emphasis upon showing the work of Brooklyn artists, the Aquinas Arts Center would enable community residents to discover the extraordinary breadth and diversity of talents exhibited by their neighbors. At the same time, it would continue the proud academic tradition of the former St. Thomas Aquinas School by offering a plethora of arts classes to Brooklynites of all ages.

In unveiling his plan, Hammerman recognized the wonderful and eclectic contribution to the community made by Park Slope cultural beacons like the Brooklyn-Queens Conservatory of Music, Southpaw, and the Brooklyn Lyceum, and he celebrated local artists for their initiative in banding together to create their successful Annual Gowanus Artists Studio Tour (AGAST). Hammerman promised that the Aquinas Arts Center would only enhance the area’s growing cultural community by offering a centerpiece around which artists and art lovers could thrive.

“Since P.S. 1 reopened in 1997, it has become more than a world-renowned tourist destination, it has drawn remarkable artists of all media to live and work in Long Island City,” said Hammerman. “The Aquinas Arts Center will bring the artistic excellence of our community to the world, while bringing the finest artists in the world to our community.”

Hammerman promised that finding the funding to build the Aquinas Arts Center would be a priority of his first term in the City Council. Citing a report from the Center for an Urban Future, Hammerman pointed out that the lack of affordable studio space, which the Aquinas Arts Center would provide free to Brooklynites, is the greatest impediment to the growth and success of New York City’s 150,000 artists.

Hammerman countered the suggestion that the Aquinas Arts Center would be an unnecessary expense by asserting that the Aquinas Arts Center would be a boon to the local economy. “Despite all other economic trends, the creative economy is growing in Brooklyn,” explained Hammerman. “City government has foolishly put all its eggs in the Wall Street and real estate baskets. We must diversify our local economy to insulate ourselves from the volatility of the markets. That means supporting the creative economy and doing a better job at supporting our small, locally-owned commercial businesses and manufacturing industries too.”

The Aquinas Arts Center, which Hammerman hopes to begin constructing as early as 2010, would be conveniently located on the cusp of Park Slope and Gowanus and easily accessible by both the F, N, and R subway lines and the B75, B77, B37, and B63 bus lines.

Craig Hammerman is running to represent Brooklyn’s 39th Council District, which encompasses Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Columbia Street, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and Boro Park.

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