‘These walls we rear’
A new center is coming to East Harlem
‘In Thy great Name, we place this stone.
To Thy great Truth, these walls we rear.
Help us to make Thy glory known.
And Thy great Name to honor here.’
— Congregational song
These lyrics were among the historic items that had been buried in the Manhattan Citadel Corps Community Center’s cornerstone since 1978. The then–massive project at 125th Street and Third Avenue had relocated the corps family from its humble beginnings at 157 East 125th Street, its home for 66 years.
Led by Brigadier Mary Nisiewicz, the new two–story brick and limestone building had included a gymnasium that also served as an auditorium for community athletic programs and meetings. It had a state–of–the–art kitchen, a chapel, day care facilities, expanded drug addiction counseling services, senior citizen and neighborhood tutorial programs, and character–building activities.
The corps also had an active ministry that included regular visitation to Harlem Hospital, home visits, mother’s meetings, children’s summer camp, day camp programs, Boy Scout and Cub Scout units, Girl Guard and Sunbeam units, as well as a variety of church and religious instruction programs.
One of the highlights of the Manhattan Citadel’s ministry occurred on March 12, 2014, when a gas–leak explosion leveled two neighborhood buildings, taking eight lives and leaving 250 residents from 85–90 apartment units homeless. Led by Captains Antonio and Jennifer Rosamilia, corps officers, the Manhattan Citadel transformed itself into an official “resident service center and emergency shelter.” For three days, displaced families were fed, housed, and comforted.
This request came from the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in partnership with the American Red Cross as well as with other city agencies and non–profit organizations such as the New York City Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD).
More than a community center
Today, yet another Manhattan Citadel is under construction. This one will include 12 stories of affordable senior housing and community facilities at the site of the block–long building.
Seniors need help more than people realize. So many of them are abandoned in their twilight years. As Harlem is in transition, its seniors are in further danger of falling through the cracks of gentrification as the cost of living continues its meteoric rise. With housing such as this provided by The Salvation Army, they will now enjoy a brighter future.
The new building will stretch from 125th to 126th Street. The development will have 233 small apartments and will sit on top of a recreation center and a chapel. The apartments will be divided across 139,833 sq. ft. of space, divided into units measuring 560 sq. ft.
A basketball court and a laundry will occupy the basement. On the first floor, there will be a chapel. The second floor will accommodate a cafeteria, offices, and classrooms. The third floor will offer fitness rooms, a café, offices, a library, and meeting rooms.
Designed by Peter Poon Architects, the apartments will start on the 4th floor, with 30 units per story through the 8th floor and 17 and 18 units respectively on the 9th and 10th floors. The top floor will have another dining hall and storage rooms.
Currently, the Manhattan Citadel is temporarily renting space in a neighborhood building until the new facility is completed. The corps has been and will continue to be a place of refuge and help for people in need.
by Warren L. Maye