Crown Heights

Opposition expected at Monday’s Bedford-Union Armory ULURP hearing

Crown Heights gentrification the issue

June 16, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Expect fireworks at Monday’s ULURP hearing on the proposed redevelopment of the Bedford-Union Armory. Shown: The Armory’s proposed recreation center.  Rendering courtesy of BFC Partners
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Opponents plan to show up in force at Monday’s Community Board 9 public hearing on the $195-million redevelopment of the Bedford-Union Armory. The hearing takes place at 6:30 p.m. at M.S. 161, 400 Empire Blvd.

The Crown Heights project, by developer BFC Partners, would include a mix of affordable rentals, market-rate rentals and condos, with recreational facilities and office space. Currently, roughly half of the rental apartments (160) would be affordable, with both low- and middle-income units.

Opponents, however, have been pushing hard against the market-rate apartments in favor of all affordable units. Luxury apartments will encourage further gentrification in the rapidly changing neighborhood, they say.

The Movement to Protect the People, headed by activist Alicia Boyd, calls the proposal a “scam” and has sent out an email blast asking members to wear their “Brooklyn Not For Sale” and “Defend Brooklyn” T-shirts to the hearing.

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In May, local Councilmember Laurie Cumbo and other officials, including Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Assemblymember Walter Mosley and Councilmember Jumaane Williams, announced their opposition to the plan as it stands.

“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, adding that Mayor Bill de Blasio should “go back to the drawing board” to find a new developer.

Local minister backs the deal

BFC says that the project would not pay without the luxury housing, however.

Rev. Dr. Daryl Bloodsaw of the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights has come out in favor of the project, saying that the new recreational center, affordable office space for nonprofits and affordable housing are all resources the community has been demanding for years.

“Let’s not squander this incredible opportunity by capitulating to a shortsighted approach that would kill the deal,” he wrote in an opinion piece.

District Leader Geoffrey Davis has also come out in support of the project.

The developer joined with non-profit CAMBA to name five youth sports and educational organizations to provide community programming at the Armory, and has partnered with the Local Development Corp. of Crown Heights to help convince residents of the project’s benefits.

The Local Development Corp. will manage a fund seeded with $500,000 that is designed to build additional affordable housing elsewhere in Crown Heights, according to Crain’s.

Crain’s points out, however, that the employment contract of the executive director of the LDC, Caple Spence, is structured to give him a cut of the nonprofit’s development deals — something that charity experts described as a “red flag.”

Opponents maintain the market-rate apartments will bring in wealthy, white residents to Crown Heights and accelerate the displacement of low-income residents of color.

As proposed, 83 percent of the total units will cost tenants or homeowners more than $2,200 a month, according to New York Communities for Change (NYCC), one of the groups opposing the redevelopment. (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.

Rev. Bloodsaw says, however, that “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.”

The hearing is part of the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), which is mandatory in rezoning issues.


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