City Shelves Plans to Redevelop Castle Grayskull Because it Needs it as a Shelter

June 1, 2015 | Liam Mathews

In 2012, the city planned to redevelop Bedford Atlantic Armory, an imposing 120-year-old building at the intersection of Bedford and Atlantic Avenues on the border of Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy. But now, Crain’s has learned, those plans were quietly shelved. Why? The city needs the armory to continue to serve as a homeless shelter, as well as a potential evacuation center in the event of another Sandy-like storm.

The enormous building is currently mostly vacant except for the Department of Homeless Services, which operates a 350-bed men’s shelter in part of the building. The shelter’s notorious violence and drug problems have earned the building the not-so-affectionate nickname “Castle Grayskull,” after the villain’s base from the ’80s cartoon Masters of the Universe. It’s not a nice place, but it’s a necessary place for men with nowhere else to go, which is why it will remain a shelter instead of being transformed into a new community space in the rapidly gentrifying area.

Back in 2012, the city put out a request for proposals to redevelop the huge, landmarked space. According to Crain’s, ideas floated included “a recreational climbing facility, a concert hall or even an ice-skating rink.” But then the city realized that it still needed an emergency center and not another playground, and quietly shelved the plans in December.

“The Bedford Atlantic Armory site remains important to those seeking shelter services, and it is also a critical emergency-response center for Hurricane Sandy-type situations,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeless Services told Crain’s.

The shelter itself needs a lot of work, as it is a hellhole. Residents told Crain’s they see hard drug use, fights, and theft in the shelter every day, and the workers there “bust their asses” with little support. Perhaps some of the profits from the underway redevelopment of the Bedford Union Armory, just down the street in Crown Heights, can be used to support capital improvements in Castle Grayskull. The men’s shelter is more important than ever, now that three-quarter houses are proven to be as bad as shelters.

(Image: Google Maps)