Crown Heights

BP Adams to make recommendation on controversial Bedford-Union Armory this coming week

August 25, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The political tussle over the controversial development of the Bedford-Union Armory project in Crown Heights continues this week, as BP Eric Adams prepares to issue his recommendation. Shown: Bedford-Union Armory’s proposed recreation center.  Rendering courtesy of BFC Partners

Borough President Eric Adams will be giving his recommendation this coming week on the controversial plan to develop the Bedford-Union Armory, as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

Details of the recommendation are currently being worked on, according to Adams’ office.

As part of the effort by developer BFC Partners to garner Adams’ support, Rev. Daryl Bloodsaw, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, is scheduled to deliver nearly 400 letters backing the project to Borough Hall on Monday.

At a dramatic press conference in May, joined by Councilmember Laurie Cumbo and other city officials, Adams came out against the development as it stands. The plan, however, is supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The project, which would include office space and a sports complex, along with affordable and market-rate rentals and condos, has been subject of numerous protests from residents pushing for more low-income housing.

Crown Heights is one of the hardest hit by gentrification in the city, with a record-high number of homeless families. In May, Adams said that the proposed redevelopment was “not sufficient to meet the needs of Crown Heights, namely the dearth of affordable housing for residents at risk of losing the community they love.”

No matter Adams’ recommendation, for all practical purposes the final decision about the Armory rests with the City Council, with the Councilmember representing the district taking the lead. That would be Cumbo, and the issue has become a major issue in her campaign. Cumbo has been castigated by her opponent Ede Fox for not opposing the project sooner than she did. Fox has promised to make the Bedford Union Armory into a land trust if she is elected.

Politico New York reports that de Blasio and his team are quietly helping Cumbo’s reelection efforts with operational and other assistance, and the Armory’s opponents fear she will water down her opposition after the Primaries.

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In a radio interview with Brian Lehrer on August 11, de Blasio said, “I am not supporting anybody in that race at this moment. There are people in my world who know her very well and like her and of their volition are helping here and that’s perfectly normal, not surprising in a political context.”

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

As it stands, half of the of the building’s 330 apartments would be affordable (165 apartments), but opponents say that most of these would still be too expensive for local residents. The project would also include 56 condos, 44 of them selling at market rates, plus the recreation center. About 83 percent of the total units will cost 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.

In his letter to Adams, however, Rev. Bloodsaw writes, “This proposal represents an incredible opportunity for thousands of Crown Heights families who will benefit from new community programming, housing and services at a time when they are most needed in our neighborhood.” He added, “Saying no to this plan would mean allowing the Armory to remain empty for years.”

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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