Crown Heights

BP Adams recommends against Bedford-Union Armory project

Urges eliminating luxury condos and increasing affordable units

September 5, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bedford-Union Armory’s proposed recreation center. Rendering courtesy of BFC Partners

Late on Friday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams announced his official disapproval of the controversial plan to develop the Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights, along with a number of recommendations to improve it.

The proposal, supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio but opposed by local officials and residents, currently includes market-rate and affordable apartments, luxury condos, a recreational facility with a swimming pool and basketball courts, and office and retail space.

“This is our opportunity to get this right,” Adams said in a statement. “This process has gone through years of debate, emotions, and public scrutiny, both for and against the development. We must ultimately come together and find the right balance that is the ideal solution for the future of Crown Heights, and for the optimal reuse of the Bedford Union Armory as a public resource.”

As part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process, Adams requested a number of changes, including eliminating the luxury condos and increasing the amount of permanently affordable housing at the lowest and highest ends. He also recommended expanding the number of family-sized housing units in the development.

The additional upper-tier affordable units could possibly offset some of the operational costs incurred by the recreational center’s swimming pool, Adams said, and might subsidize user fees. He recommended “considerable reevaluation” of the construction costs of delivering the recreational center.

“For instance, the swimming pool at the center has substantially high construction and operational costs, which would need to be offset by other funding sources. A financial study should be undertaken to investigate the appropriate and most viable mix of housing units that would help subsidize the costs of using the recreational center,” he said.

Adams also recommended that 20 percent of the rental apartments be allocated for HPD’s “Our Space Initiative,” which provides newly constructed affordable rental units to homeless individuals and families.

In May, joined by key Councilmember Laurie Cumbo and other city officials, Adams came out against the redevelopment proposal, saying it 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.”

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In his disapproval (technically “disapproval with conditions”) Adams wrote, “My recommendations for the future of the Bedford-Union Armory site are based on thousands of community voices that I have heard through various channels over the past several years. Local residents of Crown Heights and all Brooklynites deserve transparency. It is important that we have as much information as possible before any final decision is made on these applications.”

His recommendations will be considered by the City Planning Commission (CPC) as part of their public meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

Despite Adams’ disapproval and recommendations, 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.

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 roughly 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.

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