Barta Community Center

By WBNG News

July 22, 2010 Updated Nov 17, 2008 at 7:06 PM EST

The City of Binghamton dedicates a new community center in the name of a slain police officer.

City leaders and Binghamton police joined neighbors on Liberty Street.

A former police substation is now the Officer Lee Barta Community Center.

Barta was killed in the line of duty in August 1995.

The community center is place for children to go after school for programs such as Fresh Cycles.

Mary Barta, Lee's widow, was touched by the ceremony.

"Its in his name and he loved children, he loved his community and he worked hard for it and he always wanted the best for children. When he was in the Marine Corps, he always worked with children when he could so it's an extreme honor," she says.

The dedication included the unveiling of this memorial stone in the front of the center.

The stone features an engraved plaque, in honor of Barta.

Action News reporter Gabe Osterhout revisits the history of the former police outpost.

The change in purpose brings new hope for the community's future.

On August 3rd, 1995, Officer Lee Barta went to a home on Liberty Street, looking for a young man wanted on a warrant.

The man shot and killed the 29 year old officer, then took his own life.

Richard Bucci was mayor of Binghamton.

Bucci says at the time, city's north side was major area for criminal activity.

Especially drug activity.

The city opened its first police substation on Liberty Street in 1998.

"It was really a community effort to help the people of the neighborhood that were really on the front line of fighting crime and showing them they weren't forgotten, that there was a broad based commitment to trying to make that neighborhood a stronger, more viable community," Bucci says.

Binghamton police stepped up their presence by having officers inside, but the substation did not stay open long.

"A lot of the people from the community still wouldn't come here. They wouldn't, maybe they wouldn't trust us or they felt maybe our efforts wouldn't be enough maybe to help them," says Captain Richard Bocek of the Binghamton Police Department.

But, neighbors living here today say they have noticed a difference, since Officer Barta was killed.

"I believe the street has gotten a lot more police involved with incidents occurring. If there is an incident, they respond really quickly, not that they didn't do it before hand but I think it's really improved a lot," says Russell Harder of Liberty Street.

Mayor Matt Ryan says this north side area continues to improve because people are now investing in it.

The new community center is an new city investment, to give children a safe place to spend time and keep them away from crime.

In Binghamton, Gabe Osterhout, WBNG-TV Action News.

While the dedication took place today, the building has been used for a community center for about a year.

It is the home to the city's Fresh Cycles program.

It uses a combination of free bikes, lessons in maintenance and leadership to motivate children.

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