Crown Heights

Controversy grows over plans to redevelop Bedford-Union Armory

Mayor Promises a ‘Hard Look’ at the Project After Community Blasts ‘Shady’ Developer’s Involvement

August 11, 2016 By James Harney Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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As if the current steamy weather wasn’t enough, angry community groups are turning up the heat in their opposition to the planned redevelopment of the Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights.

Earlier in the week, several local activist groups loudly called for Slate Property Group to be pulled off the project to redevelop the long-vacant, 138,000-square-foot armory into market-rate and affordable housing, a recreation center and condominiums.

The groups, including New York Communities for Change and the Crown Heights Tenant Union, argued that Slate can’t be trusted to make good on its pledge to develop 150 units of affordable housing at the armory site.

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Slate is the same firm, they noted, that was found to have conspired to cover up plans to redevelop the former Rivington House nursing home on the Lower East Side into luxury housing until the city lifted a restriction mandating that the property be used solely for health care purposes.

After demonstrating on the steps of City Hall to voice their opposition, the activists sent an open letter to New York Knicks star forward Carmelo Anthony — whose foundation is providing funding for the proposed rec center — calling the deal “bad for Brooklyn” and urging him to pull his support from it.

“While you may have added your name in hopes that this will be a great asset for the local community, it will not,” the letter to Anthony, who is currently playing for the U.S. men’s basketball team at the Rio Olympics, read in part. “This development includes little-to-no affordable apartments for local residents.”

In fact, the activists contend, most of the “affordable” units at the redeveloped armory could only be afforded by a family of four with an annual income of $99,600.

On Wednesday, the groups staged another demonstration, this time on Bedford Avenue outside the armory itself, once again calling on the city to oust Slate from the current redevelopment plan and come up with a new one.

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“Our taxes pay for this land, so this is our facility,” Crown Heights Tenant Union organizer Esteban Giron said at the armory rally. “It’s been taken away from us to be given to Slate, which is a shady developer.”

According to a DNAinfo report, Slate co-founder David Schwartz issued a statement defending the armory redevelopment and his firm’s involvement in it, saying it will create “much-needed recreational facilities [and] affordable housing for the Crown Heights community. These attacks are meritless and do not serve the interests of local residents.”

Nevertheless, in the face of the persistent community outcry over Slate’s involvement, the de Blasio administration appeared to be adjusting its stance on the armory project.

“We’re going to take a very hard look at that situation,” the Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “I think anyone who seeks to do business with the city of New York and misleads us needs to know that there will be consequences.” 


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