A diverse group of approximately 50 Baldwin residents, led by members of the Baldwin Civic Association and the Community Coalition of Baldwin, sat down in the high school cafeteria recently to discuss their dreams. The evening’s theme? Envisioning a community center in Baldwin.
“When people don’t feel connected to their community,” began Claudia Rotundo of the CCB, “they are at risk for becoming involved with drugs and alcohol. We’re trying to create that connection to community.”
Rotundo distributed a sheaf of materials documenting the link between community connection and a reduction in substance abuse. One handout listed substance abuse, delinquency and violence as problem behaviors associated with low neighborhood attachment and community disorganization.
“This community has two buildings empty right now,” Rotundo said. “I want to make one of them into a community center.”
Throughout the discussion, it was tacitly acknowledged that the recently mothballed Milburn School was the location the two groups were eyeing most hungrily. The Shubert School seemed to be site No. 2 on their list, and a repurposed space in the Hastings Street district offices was the third pick. Large blueprints were laid out on a half dozen tables set up in BHS’s cafeteria, and Sarah Hill, the BCA rep on hand for the event, confided that the building outlined on the sheets was Milburn.
The two women leading the discussion gave attendees free rein in filling out their blank blueprints with their fantasy community center. The only guidance they gave the assembly was to avoid thinking of the facility as a place for young people alone. “This is not a recreation center,” Rotundo said. “This should be a place where everyone in the community will want to go. We want this to appeal to people from womb to tomb.”
“You don’t have to be a great artist to do this,” Hill added. “Stick figures are fine. And please don’t limit yourselves. Put down your dreams. If you’d like to see a knitting room, a dance space, a swimming pool, put that down. Freeport has an ice skating rink. I want an ice skating rink.”