Commentary: Stanley White Recreation Center needs to stay where it is

After working diligently with community leaders from the Duffy field area for two years, receiving 8 million dollars in grant money from FEMA, and designing/quoting the project with an architect in totality, members of the New Bern Board of Aldermen want to re-locate the Stanley White Recreation Center.

This may seem small if you are outside the community, but believe me when I tell you just how much this land means to the people who have grown up in the facility. I am seriously shocked at the city’s adamant attempts to relocate this major asset seeing as every opinion that they have carefully considered has echoed the need to re-build on the existing site.

I want to address a few frequently asked questions, in my opinion —

the new land is built outside of the flood zone, so it won’t flood anymore!

The land at Henderson Park and the streets around it are poorly maintained. That’s why Duffyfield flooded so terribly in 2018. With an eight million dollar investment, the city is able to build Stanley White up to code (for only ~$400k) AND integrate the new building with the retention ponds, ditch renovations, and other proactive responses to basic land maintenance. If this is done correctly, the risk of flooding should be minimized greatly.

But the flood insurance is so high, $100k a year? Just to maintain a community center?

Flood insurance in downtown New Bern will ALWAYS ALWAYS be high. From now until forever. Duffy field still exists, and if this project is moved even 100 feet outside of the current building zone, I fear that the neighborhood will never see the investment that it so deserves. While the population has dwindled due to storm damage, we cannot let it slip through the cracks. This maintenance is long overdue and the money was given because there is a serious need.

If they build the building back where it was, it can’t be used as a shelter anymore. Where will the people stay?

This issue is totally independent of Stanley White Rec Center. City of New Bern should be building a shelter that can house thousands of people or multiple community buildings that are more centrally located. Yes, they will be able to find funding for this. Yes, there are plenty of undeveloped buildings that would be available to accommodate this. No, it is not the burden of the community in Duffyfield to hold. If they put the center out on Gaston Blvd. they will totally neglect the issues that remain in the community and it will flood horribly again and the neighborhood will fall to disrepair and the city will clear the land and it will suddenly be a bougie park or a shopping center or some other form of gentrification that does not serve the community that it surrounds. It may seem like a proactive decision, but it totally ignores the complexities of the land and the neglect that it has faced over the years.

The land will always be a park! They can’t build a road through it.

The fact that they felt compelled to re-state that a road could not be built through it proves their intentions in “finding” this new land to begin with. If they’re just going to build a park on the land, why can’t they rebuild Stanley White? Why are they so quick to use the 8 million elsewhere? Why do we have to kill two birds with one stone when it comes to investing in low-income neighborhoods? It’s a shame. Especially after dragging the community along for the last two years.

Curious to know what everyone else thinks and even more interested in how much money has been granted to the city using the statistics of low-income neighborhoods, and how much of that money was actually seen by the people it was supposed to serve. I have SO MUCH TO SAY about housing in New Bern — but let’s talk about this for right now.

— Kelly Rogers, used with permission

June 18th, 2020 by
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