Central Brooklyn lawmakers including Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, State Senator Jesse Hamilton and Assembly Members Walter T. Mosley Diana Richardson last week joined forces to demand that the Bedford Union Armory redevelopment plan in Crown Heights have 100 percent affordable housing.
In a joint letter to the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the lawmakers laid out their concerns about the impending development and insisted the they and the community have a seat at the table.
“Public land means public accountability. Joining with colleagues, I want to make clear that development, especially development on public land, is accountable to the community. They must meet neighborhood needs like offering truly affordable housing and stronger STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education offerings. That is the only path I see for this project to move forward,” said Hamilton.
The lawmakers letter comes as the project has swirled in controversy since first being announced in December of last year. Under that original plan, the Slate Property Group along with BFC Partners was to redevelop the 138,000-square-foot armory into market rate and affordable housing, a recreation center and condominiums.
However, Slate pulled out of the deal in late August after it was found to have conspired to cover up plans to redevelop the former Rivington House nursing home on the Lower East Side into luxury housing until the city lifted a restriction mandating that the property be used solely for health care purposes.
Since Slate’s pullout local lawmakers, civic leaders and community activists have been talking about reconfiguring the entire redevelopment.
In their letter, the elected officials stated their priorities includes:
- Using every single public resource to provide affordable housing at all income levels. The Bedford Union Armory is a rare public site where the City has the opportunity to build 100% affordable housing, working with the not-for-profit development community. These income levels should include 50% of AMI and below and up to 130% of AMI, in order to contribute to solving the housing crisis and meet local needs. In order to accommodate this 100% affordable building, the EDC should use NYC affordable housing program subsidies at the proposed development sites.
- Increase the Community Board 9 community preference from 50% to 80% of the affordable housing units – though we recognize pending litigation may have significant bearing on community preferences and the latitude for their imposition.
- Decrease the percentage of one bedroom and studio apartments to no more than 40% of the total rental units developed on site, with the remaining units equally divided between two and three bedroom apartments
- Incorporate the community’s architecture to better blend the housing units to fit into the larger community aesthetics.
- Use a Community Area Median Income instead of a regional AMI for income qualifications for affordable units; related, ensure that obstacles do not hinder one’s ability to apply for affordable housing (e.g. using credit scores).
- Require more education and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs for the facility operator in the community and education space so that a larger number of community residents can take advantage of the community, education and recreational space.
- Placing on the record the advantages of union labor, particularly union apprenticeship programs and laudable safety records – we remain concerned as to whether union labor will be used in this project.
A EDC spokesperson said the letter was received and being reviewed.
Sources said BFC will be advancing the project as planned, pursuant to public review and in collaboration with community stakeholders and elected officials. The City is expected to enter into the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) in early 2017.
In the meantime, Hamilton will hold a Special Bedford Armory Update meeting at 6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 20 at his office, 1669 Bedford Avenue in Crown Heights.
Two days later, Richardson will host a Civic Minded meeting to give residents the opportunity to gain more insight, find meaningful action and procure resolutions to address the future of the Bedford-Union Armory, which is at the center of discussion for mixed-use. The meeting is slated for between 12 noon – 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 22 at MS 61, 400 Empire Boulevard. For further info call 718 – 771-3105.