Roughly 45 minutes into the meeting at Ingersoll Community Center, after the mayor and Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo rattled off lists of accomplishments, several demonstrators began chanting, “Whose armory? Our armory!”
Security quickly removed the protesters from the room.
“You’ve made your point,” de Blasio said, as they were being escorted out. “Let’s give people a chance to ask a question.”
“Can we be respectful of the individuals who actually live in this community?” Cumbo said, with one protester retorting, “we do.”
For the rest of the night, only one community member asked about the Bedford-Union Armory, and his question pertained to the possibility of adding an alternative energy generator.
The armory redevelopment issue in Crown Heights has been a focal point of criticisms directed at de Blasio and Cumbo. Cumbo’s challengers in her re-election effort this year focused largely on the expected negative impact of the project.
Last month, Cumbo negotiated an agreement with the city and developer BFC Partners to remove market-rate condos from the development. More than 400 units will be rental apartments, and the site will remain publicly owned.
The project includes nearly 250 units of affordable housing, a recreation center with discounted membership for community members, and office space for local nonprofits.
At his 50th town hall meeting, the mayor touted local investments to parks, housing and education. He announced that the Cure Violence program, which mediates conflicts on the streets and connects high-risk people to critical services, is coming to the 88th Precinct. That includes Ingersoll, Farragut and Whitman houses.
De Blasio also announced that the $3.5 million renovation of Elijah Stroud Playground will be ready next year. Another $1.4 million for Washington Hall Playground will redo the basketball courts, bleachers and landscaping. Finally, his administration will allocate $200,000 to increase litter basket collection in community boards 2 and 9.
Several people asked about possible changes to local schools. One resident asked about the Department of Education’s plan to close W.E.B. DuBois High School in Crown Heights. The DOE’s Panel for Education Policy (PEP) is scheduled to vote on the motion in January.
De Blasio responded that some schools have become “very small and not effective.” But he agreed that the name of the school must be “enshrined properly.”
Cumbo then added that the community should fight for the PEP vote to be cancelled.
“I’m ready to ride this one out with the students, parents and teachers,” she said.
Musa Moore, chair of Community Board 9, asked the mayor about the future of Medgar Evers College Preparatory School, which he called “a crown jewel.”
The mayor said he wants the school to “continue to be great.”
“The only change is just to have all schools on a single application process,” de Blasio said. “That does not affect the recruitment process, the selection process, any other thing that the school leadership does to put together a fantastic school.”
Most of the questions directed at the mayor were about gentrification, schools and addressing the needs of NYCHA residents. One resident asked the mayor why he didn’t support a City Council bill to expand vendor permits.
De Blasio said he supports an increase to vendor permits, but only if legislation met certain criteria, including a strong enforcement mechanism and geographical restrictions. He also noted that while vendors are doing important, mom-and-pop retail stores are “really hurting right now.”
He added that the legislation will likely be ready, after negotiations, in a month or two.
“What the City Council ultimately put together did not meet those standards. I said I can’t sign it under that condition,” de Blasio said. “We’re going to send it right back and work will begin next month with the new City Council. A lot of work is already prepared, we just got to get to the right balance and the right compromise.”