OPINION: Let’s work together to succeed at the Bedford-Union Armory
Crown Heights has been offered a once-in-a-generation chance to revitalize the Bedford-Union Armory with a new recreational center, affordable office space for nonprofits and affordable housing — all resources our community has been demanding for years.
Let’s not squander this incredible opportunity by capitulating to a shortsighted approach that would “kill the deal.” Let’s work together to make it an even better deal for all Crown Heights families.
For more than a half century, the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights has been at the forefront of religious, political and social activity in our neighborhood. As First Baptist’s pastor, it would be a disservice for me to sit idly by without adding my voice to the chorus of those speaking out on the Bedford-Union Armory. Remember that First Baptist is not just a stakeholder in this process — the proposed development also encompasses the full block directly behind our church.
We strongly support the redevelopment of the armory because of the powerfully positive impact it will have on local residents of all backgrounds.
Young people and seniors — and everyone in between — will benefit from free and low-cost programming in the armory’s new quality athletic facilities, which will include basketball courts, indoor fields and a swimming pool. These facilities will also play a vital role in providing much-needed opportunities for local public schools, which often lack space for their sports teams to practice and play games.
Nonprofit organizations — such as the West Indian American Day Carnival Association and Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy — will gain the permanent homes they need in new affordable office space at the armory. These organizations serve tens of thousands of Crown Heights residents, including many of African and Caribbean heritages who have historically been underserved.
When it comes to affordable housing, I believe the mixed-income plan at the armory represents a positive step for our community. The proposed rental housing will be 50 percent affordable — a total of more than 160 affordable apartments — with homes for both low-income and middle-income individuals and families. While I agree that low-income housing is a huge priority in Crown Heights, we also need more homes for middle-income earners. The reality is that, yes, people of color in our community do make $75,000 per year, or $100,000 per year, or more. They will surely benefit from this deal — and that is a good thing.
This does not mean we think the armory proposal is perfect. While a mixed-income approach is good, we believe there should be more low-income housing at the armory. We are currently working with our elected officials and the developers — BFC Partners and the Local Development Corporation of Crown Heights — to discuss paths for achieving deeper affordability. It is likely that more city and state resources will be needed to accomplish that goal — and we are ready to push for those additional resources.
Here’s one thing I know for sure: If we kill the deal, we won’t get any more affordable housing. We will get nothing. No rec center for our youth, no office space for our nonprofits and no housing for low- and middle-income families. The armory will simply sit vacant for many more years to come.
We can’t afford to lose this opportunity. Let’s work together to make the new Bedford-Union Armory a reality for our Crown Heights community.
Rev. Dr. Daryl G. Bloodsaw is the proud pastor of the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights. He earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, N.Y. in transformative leadership with a concentration on prophetic preaching. He also serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of New York Theological Seminary and is an adjunct faculty member teaching Introduction to the Old and New Testaments in the Master of Professional Studies program at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, N.Y.