Op-Ed: Richardson On Why The Bedford Armory Deal Must Be Killed

Editor’s Note: KCP received this email late this afternoon as a response to City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo’s call to continue to negotiate with the city’s Economic Development Corporation and developer BFC Partners on the redevelopment of the city-owned Bedford Union Armory in Crown Heights. It is reprinted in full below.

As a member of the New York State Assembly whose district borders the Bedford Union Armory by less than a block, a Crown Heights resident for over three decades, and a constituent of the 35th Council District, I have grave concerns about the proposed development of the Bedford Union Armory.

The project that is being proposed — an UNAFFORDABLE recreation center and UNAFFORDABLE housing does not reflect the needs or the wishes of our Crown Heights community.

In the quest to achieve a no cost to low cost recreational facility, my neighbors and I were informed that the housing built must “allow the project to pay for itself.” This project represents a classic  tale of gentrification: 5% of rental units’ will be affordable at 40% AMI and 15% of units at 60% AMI. 30% of the units will be at 110% of AMI. The remainder will be at market rate. Our community’s AMI is close to 40% of the City AMI. This means that just 5% of the project — a mere 18 units — will be affordable to the community.

The issue with the project is simple. It is unaffordable to the residents of the community of which the project is based. It will bring in higher paying residents and accelerate displacement. It will not provide housing to New York City’s 60,000 homeless individuals, many of whom were displaced from Crown Heights. There is not one single unit which will be affordable to senior citizen constituents in this district on a Social Security Income. It squanders away a valuable piece of public land — a rare opportunity for the City to fight for deep affordability.

In an ever changing city of development, as elected officials, we have an obligation to protect those who rely on our voice to advocate for them. Furthermore, the community does not stand to benefit from 50% market rate housing, 30 one million dollar condominiums and the remainder “affordable housing” as proposed by the Economic Development Corporation and BFC Partners.

It is vital that we stand together on the right side of this housing issue. As both a resident of the 35th Council District and Assemblywoman of the neighboring Assembly District, I cannot stand by and watch ink dry on a development plan detrimental to Crown Heights and its neighboring communities.

As we near the end of 2016 and enter into 2017, it is imperative that we get this project right. The armory should be 100% affordable housing, which would in fact represent the true need of those who are suffering in our community. The children of our community are in need of a safe place to go during the hours of 3pm to 7pm, when data shows that they are most at risk for idle behavior.

As someone involved in this process, it has been flawed from both inception and throughout. First, an RFP was released prior to the Economic Development Corporation’s (EDC) first stakeholder meeting.  The RFP reflects the City’s, not the neighborhood’s, vision of what the Bedford Union Armory should become. And today, there are still several layers of uncertainty. As a community we cannot afford that. We are asking the City of New York to provide every layer of transparency with this project. To date, four of the five elected officials in discussion with the City around this project have not seen financials for this project. Despite that, BFC Partners continues to seek our support. How can any elected official support a project that clearly does not benefit their constituents? How can any elected official support a developer that has refused to be transparent with their plan?

The EDC selected both Slate and BFC Partners to develop the armory. It was later brought to the attention of the Mayoral Administration by way of grassroots activist groups like New York Communities for Change (NYCC) and Crown Heights Tenants Union (CHTU) that Slate had already duped the city at a different project site in Manhattan. Upon this revelation, the City dropped Slate. We remain stuck with BFC Partners — a developer who has sued low income homeowners, has been accused of paying poverty wages, bulldozed over community gardens, and around the corner from my district, has intimidated tenants out of organizing their own building (even though the low income tenants lack cooking gas in their homes).

BFC Partners is not qualified to develop this site. The Crown Heights community will hold all parties responsible for further gentrification and displacement because we deserve 100% affordability. We are calling for this “deal to be killed,” and for the flawed process to start over again.

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