Crown Heights

Something’s Affordable! West Indian Carnival Association will move in when Bedford-Union Armory is redeveloped

November 15, 2016 By James Harney Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A rendering of the planned redevelopment of the Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights. Courtesy: BFC Partners
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Affordable housing at the redeveloped Bedford-Union Armory is still a hotly debated issue, but for at least one high-profile would-be tenant, affordable office space is not.

Crown Heights politicians and advocacy groups continue to rail about how much housing in the rebuilt armory should be offered below market rate — and who should develop it. 

Meanwhile, one local nonprofit, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), announced this week it has entered into a deal with developer BFC Partners to lease 3,500 square feet of “affordable” office space that will be the permanent home of the iconic West Indian American Day Parade.

WIADCA officials said the agreement ends their long search for affordable space in which to set up a headquarters to promote Caribbean culture and history “through year-round programming that culminates in the annual West Indian American Day Parade.” A source told the Brooklyn Eagle that WIADCA will lease the office space at $6 per square foot, “a fraction of the market rate” of $20-$25 per square foot. 

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“Securing a permanent home for West Indian cultural leadership is a huge victory for our Crown Heights community,” said WIADCA President William Howard. “We commend BFC Partners for their commitment to providing truly affordable office space that will enable us to keep celebrating and sharing our traditions for generations to come. Our community looks forward to the day when we can begin preparing for the Carnival Parade at a brand new office in the Bedford-Union Armory.”

BFC Partners Principal Don Capoccia shared Howard’s enthusiasm, saying: “Collaboration with West Indian cultural leaders is an important part of our work in Crown Heights and we are proud to welcome WIADCA as a true community anchor of the armory.

“We are actively involved in discussions with other community organizations,” Capoccia added, “to provide more of the affordable space this neighborhood needs and deserves.”

The office space deal with WIADCA notwithstanding BFC Partners — the lead developer in the project to revitalize the massive, long-vacant armory — has come under fire recently from at least one area-elected official who said the developer has a poor track record in dealing with low-income tenants in housing properties it owns or manages.

In a recent letter to the blog “Kings County Politics,” state Assemblymember Diana Richardson (D-Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Lefferts Gardens) criticized BFC Partners as “a developer who has sued low income homeowners, has been accused of paying poverty wages and … has intimidated tenants out of organizing [tenant associations in] their own building.

“BFC Partners is not qualified to develop [the armory] site,” Richardson continued in her letter. “We are calling for this [redevelopment] deal to be killed and the flawed process to start over again.”

But in announcing the deal with WIADCA, officials of BFC Partners and the Crown Heights-based nonprofit CAMBA insisted that “the revitalization of the … armory will provide Crown Heights with vital new recreational facilities, community rooms, affordable housing and office space.

“BFC Partners, CAMBA and the New York City Economic Development Corporation,” the statement continued, “are continuing to gather community feedback on the armory plans, which will likely enter the city’s land use review process in the coming months.”

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