Freeport Village Mayor Robert Kennedy and other elected officials on Thursday introduced the Ready Set Grow Learning Academy, a child care facility for village residents that will include educational programs. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Freeport officials opened the first phase of the repurposed Freeport Armory on Thursday, cutting the ribbon on a new child care center after the village wrestled back the building after decades of state control.

Elected officials with the village, Town of Hempstead and Nassau County joined local residents and clergy Thursday to open the Ready Set Grow Learning Academy at the armory on Babylon Turnpike.

Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy said the child care center is the first tenant of the armory on the 3-acre property that housed the National Guard and the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs until 2011.

"After decades of attempting to get this and the denials by Albany it’s a great feeling to open this up for the community," Kennedy said. "We felt it was only right to bring it back to the village and generate some income on this. This is what stabilizes taxes and it’s a benefit for the residents to have these programs available."

Kennedy said the village is also looking to add a sports complex and a technical trade school for HVAC, carpentry, electrical and plumbing to occupy the building. It was reopened using $800,000 in Nassau County Community Development funding.

The village pivoted to add new tenants to the armory after residents rejected proposals to relocate the village Department of Public Works to the armory.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo returned control of the armory back to the village in 2019, signing a bill sponsored by Assemb. Taylor Darling (D-Hempstead) after a decade of wrangling with the state while the property sat vacant.

President and co-owner Chelisa Harris speaks before the ribbon cutting ceremony for Ready...

President and co-owner Chelisa Harris speaks before the ribbon cutting ceremony for Ready Set Grow Learning Academy at the former Freeport Armory on Thursday. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Cuomo finally approved Darling’s bill after vetoing two previous attempts by Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper to have the armory transferred to a church-affiliated nonprofit across the street for $1.

Kennedy delivered a petition with more than 1,000 resident signatures opposing Hooper’s plan and advocating returning control to the village.

"Mayor Kennedy and my state colleagues worked tremendously hard to make this come to fruition," Darling said. "This is a happy ending and proof of what can happen when layers of government work with their community."

The new day care center, which opened last week, serves 15 students, but has the capacity to serve up to 90 students ranging from ages 2½ to 12 years old. The center will focus on teaching science, technology, reading, engineering, arts and math.

"We are determined to make this an exemplary center to bring children up in a way they can be successful in Freeport and extend in their lives and grow," the learning center’s director Chelisa Harris said.

— With Yancey Roy

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