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Long Beach's MLK Center to re-open at 50 percent capacity

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The Martin Luther King Center, a key facility for children, seniors and people in need of food, will reopen at 50 percent capacity beginning Friday, after being closed for nearly a year while it tried to comply with New York State covid regulations.

Negotiations to reopen the MLK Center have dragged on for months, while city and center officials discussed ways to reopen the facility that serves about 300 children and seniors as well as those who are food insecure.

The partial re-opening was announced by the center in a press release Wednesday.

“It is with a high level of excitement and hope that we greet you with this message,” Mack Graham MLK’s executive director, said in a statement.

“We are thrilled to announce that after months of negotiations with the City of Long Beach, that the Long Beach Martin Luther King Center will reopen its doors and program to our community on Friday, February 26,” Graham said.

He said in an interview that aside from permission to operate at 50 percent capacity, the center will also conduct arts and crafts classes, provide homework help to school children, operate a fitness center and offer financial literacy sessions.

“We going for a slow-start,” Graham said. He said the center will abide by state covid regulations as to when it is able to open fully.

“Initially, we will be operating at 50% capacity and will not surpass that benchmark at any time until notified that we may do so. Pre-registration is required to participate in weekly programs at the Center. All persons who enter the building must complete COVID screening as well,” the center said in its release.

James Hodge, the chairman of the center’s board of directors, said he was thrilled at the agreement for the center to open, even partially. He has said the center is still seeking a lease.

The center, on Riverside Boulevard, provides educational and recreational activities to children and adults year-round. But since the pandemic took last March, the public has not been allowed inside the building. The center, in conjunction with the Long Beach school district, continued to provide food to those in need, but it must be distributed outside.

At times during the closure, relations between the city and the center were contentious.

In May, James Hodge, took to Facebook early to announce that the city had locked the doors to the and that he was unable to get inside, preventing cooks from preparing meals for some 300 people.

Hodge asked people to call the city to demand the center be re-opened. On the Facebook video, Hodge is wearing a mask and the video is live.

“I just came to the center to open the door this morning,” Hodge said in the video. “The key just doesn’t go in. They changed the lock. Our cooks won’t be able to get in.”

The city said it had closed the MLK Center for fire safety reasons.

The MLK is also seeking financial help and has started “The Dream Continues Campaign.”

The center said its goal is to raise #35,000 to support start-up programs and general operations. The campaign is to run through May 30th.

Donations can be sent via text to LBMLK 44-321.

Donations may also be made through CashApp at ($LBMLK), or mail to Long Beach Martin Luther King Center, Inc. at 615 Riverside Blvd., Long Beach, NY 11561.