Crown Heights

Amid controversy, Bedford-Union Armory ULURP process kicks off in Brooklyn

May 22, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Days after elected officials spoke out against the Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment plan, supporters rallied for the controversial Crown Heights project. Shown: Bedford-Union Armory’s proposed recreation center.  Rendering courtesy of BFC Partners

New York City Planning Commission’s certification on Monday started the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) approval process for the controversial Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment plan.

The war of words between opponents and supporters continued over the weekend. Just days after city Councilmember Laurie Cumbo and a host of elected officials blasted the redevelopment plan, supporters rallied for the project in Crown Heights.

On Sunday, proponents led by Rev. Dr. Daryl G. Bloodsaw, Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, emphasized the advantages the development would bring to the neighborhood.

“Revitalizing the Bedford-Union Armory is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that we can’t afford to lose,” Bloodsaw said in a statement. “A new recreational center, affordable nonprofit space and affordable housing would benefit thousands of Crown Heights families.”

Geoffrey Davis, Democratic district leader for the 43rd Assembly District., said in a statement, “If we miss this chance, the Armory will remain empty and provide no value for our community. We believe Councilmember Cumbo can and should find a positive resolution to make this vision a reality.”

While the proposal is backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, supporters appear to be outmanned by opponents, who include community residents, a number of local nonprofits and now, elected officials. Dozens of these chanting opponents showed up at Sunday’s rally, according to Patch.com.

On Thursday, Cumbo and other officials, including Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Assemblymember Walter Mosley and Councilmember Jumaane Williams, held a press conference to announce their firm opposition to the plan.

“Since the very beginning our message has been clear: We will not allow public land to be used for the purpose of luxury condominiums,” Cumbo said.

Opponents want more affordable apartments

The project, by developer BFC Partners, would include office space and a sports complex, along with a mix of affordable rentals, market-rate rentals and condos. Half of the rental apartments (160) would be affordable, with both low- and middle-income units.

Opponents want all of the Armory’s apartments to be affordable, however.

The market-rate apartments will encourage wealthy, white residents to move to Crown Heights and accelerate the displacement of low-income residents of color, according to an analysis by New York Communities for Change (NYCC), one of the groups opposing the redevelopment.

As proposed, 83 percent of the total units will cost tenants or homeowners more than $2,200 a month, according to NYCC’s study. (Their analysis is based on the details provided by the Economic Development Corporation in the Draft Scope of Work.)

At this cost, the Bedford Union Armory is mainly affordable for families of three who earn just under $90,000 a year, according to HUD’s standard of affordability (30 percent of income), the organization says.

Statistically, white families are more than twice as likely as African-Americans to be able to afford the majority of Bedford Armory apartments, and more than 4.5 times more likely than Latino families.

“Simply put, the project is not for African-American and Latino residents of the area. It’s for white newcomers who earn higher incomes and can afford to pay more to live there,” NYCC concludes.

On Monday, Judith Goldiner, The Legal Aid Society’s attorney-in-charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit, said in a statement, “This project in its current form is a raw deal for Crown Heights and New Yorkers in need of real affordable housing. The city should be leveraging all available public property to combat declining affordability and proliferating homelessness, not auction it off to the highest bidder to develop more market-rate condos and rentals.”

She urged the City Council to vote no “on any proposal that prioritizes developers over the needs of local communities.”

In an opinion piece, however, Bloodsaw said Crown Heights also needed 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,” he wrote.

He also pointed to the project’s sweeteners: the rec center, affordable space for nonprofits and a training program with 32BJ SEIU that would prepare local residents for jobs as doormen, porters, janitors, security officers and other careers.

According to DNAinfo, the developer is promising to set aside at least $500,000 from the sale of condos on the site to create a fund for new affordable housing elsewhere in the neighborhood.

The affordable housing fund will be overseen by BFC, the Local Development Corporation of Crown Heights and Rev. Bloodsaw.

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