Recruitment center agrees to change its look

A Westchester Square Navy/Air Force recruitment center doesn’t quite look like a Navy Recruitment Center. But soon, it will.

For years the recruitment center, which is at 63 Westchester Square, has operated out of a storefront that appears, to almost everyone, to be vacant. There is no signage whatsoever, and many have taken it for an abandoned space.

Thanks to an outcry from community leaders and Congressman Joseph Crowley, the recruitment center has agreed to put up signs in October that should enliven the location and appease business-owners who say the facility is an eyesore.

“Initially they were talking about putting a sign out and making it more visible to the public and about changing the aesthetics of the building, too, but their first step is putting a sign out there,” said Westchester Square Merchants Association president Greg Perry.

Since the agency was established on Westchester Square about two years ago it has never had a sign and typically operates with its steel roll-down gates half way down the front windows. The green paint above the windows has also deteriorated, and many business owners are concerned that the look has deterred customers from shopping in the area.

According to Perry, the agreement to shape up the exterior extends only to the singage.

“There were no specifics mentioned about the gates, but I’m quite sure the Naval station there will want to do the right thing. They don’t want to be looked at as negative,” he said.

The agreement was made after Congressman Crowley and Community Board 10 district manager Ken Kearns sent letters outlining the problem and calling for the agency to act. The letter, sent by Congressman Crowley on June 25, states that his office has received complaints since the building’s inception and that it is tarnishing the image of the armed forces.

“We hold the government to a high standard and expect it to take the community’s concerns and needs into account,” said Courtney Gidner, communications director for the congressman. “A recruiting office is often the first impression for prospective service members and it should reflect the pride that comes with serving our country.”

According to local businessman John Bonizio, the facility has been a drag on the local economy, and is a sign of disrespect for those who register for the military out of the Westchester Square office.

“It’s been over two years that this facility has looked disgraceful. It’s ridiculous,” he said. “It’s in a very visible location and I don’t understand why it takes so long to put up a sign.”

Although Bonizio said that he is unconvinced adding a sign will be enough to turn around the bad reputation, Perry said he is hopeful the recruitment center will keep its word to install the signs by October and then continue to improve the site.

“We feel that having an aesthetically pleasing facility will help to bring about that pride that the military has in everything they do,” he said. “We realize it’s going to take some time, but we’ll get to that point.”

Calls for comments from the US Navy were not returned.

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