City certifies Bedford Union Armory redevelopment
by Patrick Kearns
May 24, 2017 | 1512 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The City Planning Commission last week certified a development proposal for the Bedford-Union Armory.

The project, a partnership between the Economic Development Corporation and developer BFC Partners, now goes through a review process by the local community board and ultimately the City Council, despite objection from community activists and local elected officials.

"We are working to bring a long-awaited community recreational center and badly needed affordable housing to Crown Heights,” a EDC spokesperson said in a statement. “We'll continue talking to stakeholders on the ground and look for ways to make a great project even better."

Plans call for 330 rental units, 60 condominiums, and a 45,000-square-foot recreational facility at the 138,000-square-foot facility at the corner of Bedford Avenue and President Street.

The decision comes after a weekend of protests outside the armory from groups like New York Communities for Change (NYCC), the Crown Heights Tenants Union and the Democratic Socialists of America’s Brooklyn chapter.

“This will bring more housing we can't afford, and increase evictions and homelessness in a neighborhood that is being taken over by gentrifying developers like BFC,” said Vaughn Armour of NYCC. "Every time their project moves forward, our elected officials are betraying us."

Opponents want the project placed in a community land trust without the involvement of a private developer to maximize the affordable housing.

Last Thursday, Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, Borough President Eric Adams, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Assemblyman Walter Mosley and Public Advocate Letitia James officially pulled their support from the proposal.

“This is a challenging issue because our community in Crown Heights has seen rapid gentrification,” Cumbo said. “We have seen luxury condominiums and non-affordable rentals go up while so many of our residents have been pushed out.”

Cumbo admitted that, at first, the proposal seemed like an ideal opportunity to answer the need for low-income housing, job creation, recreation opportunities and space for nonprofit organizations.

But after a year of negotiations with little progress, Cumbo officially decided not to support it. She pledged not to back any development at the armory that includes luxury condominiums.

“The proposal in its current form represents gentrification at its worst,” she said. “The people have spoke loud and clear, no luxury condominiums and real affordable housing.”

But opponents said the sudden opposition from Cumbo was disingenuous.

"My neighbors and I see through this dog-and-pony show,” Armour said. “This is nothing but hype and bluster, and if Laurie Cumbo were really against this project it would be dead tomorrow.

"We can't afford six months of being lied to only to see this project go forward in the end,” he added of the pending review process.
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