Crown Heights

Legal Aid Society to file lawsuit against Bedford-Union Armory plan

Goes before City Council for vote Thursday

November 28, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Bedford-Union Armory seen from the corner of President Street. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
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After more than a year of outcry and a week after the project was renegotiated, the New York City Council is scheduled to vote on Thursday on the controversial plan for developing the Bedford-Union Armory project in Crown Heights.

However, a new stumbling block has appeared — The Legal Aid Society has announced it will be filing a lawsuit against the proposal. The organization is set to unveil the litigation at an 11 a.m. rally Wednesday morning on the steps of City Hall, where it will be joined by groups including New York Communities for Change and Crown Heights Tenant Union, along with local residents.

“Despite cries from area elected officials, tenant advocates and the local community, City Hall has failed to devise a development plan that is truly affordable for local residents and one that will not exacerbate the potential for displacement as Crown Heights continues to gentrify,” The Legal Aid Society said in a release.

The group is also challenging the methodology the city uses to evaluate tenant displacement in land use decisions.

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

Deal sweetened

In May, joined by key Councilmember Laurie Cumbo and other city officials, Brooklyn Borough President Eric 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.”

As part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process, Adams announced his official disapproval in September, along with a number of recommendations to improve the plan. Adams requested eliminating the luxury condos and increasing the amount of permanently affordable housing at the lowest and highest ends, along with other changes.

On Nov. 21, Councilmember Laurie Cumbo helped renegotiate the deal with the city and developer BFC Partners. The new plan eliminated 56 condos, most of them luxury.

The plan originally called for 330 rental apartments, with 115 market rate and 115 low income. The revised plan includes more than 400 rental apartments, with an increase in the number of units for low-income and very low-income families, bringing that number to 250. Rents will range from about $521 to $1,166 for a two bedroom.

The plan also includes a recreation center (with half of memberships going to neighborhood residents for $10 per month, according to The Real Deal) and 10 percent of apartments reserved for formerly homeless people.

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 district.

“I am proud to have secured 250 units of low-income housing, including 10 percent set aside for families transitioning from homeless shelters, low-cost space for local nonprofits, a world-class recreation facility, a brand new medical facility for the uninsured, more than 700 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs following the completion of the Bedford Union Armory,” Cumbo said in an emailed statement. “We are prepared to see this project through.”


Details of the renegotiated plan provided by Councilmember Cumbo:

There will be no condo units included in the final Armory project and the property will remain entirely in public ownership. The more than 400 homes in the project will now be rental units.

In addition, Councilmember Cumbo negotiated much deeper levels of affordability for a greater number of units.

The original proposal included 67 homes that were affordable below 60 percent AMI — that’s a family of four making $57,000 a year or less. The final Armory project now includes approximately 250 homes that will be affordable below 60 percent AMI.

The full affordability breakdown is as follows:

–          50 units at 30 percent AMI (inclusive of 25 units set aside for formerly homeless)

–          24 units at 40 percent AMI

–          24 units at 50 percent AMI

–          152 units at 60 percent AMI

Finally, 10 percent of the affordable housing will now be set aside for formerly homeless individuals and families. No housing for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness was proposed in the original project.




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