Crown Heights Residents Demand Bedford Union Armory Deal Be Killed

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The fight over the who and the what concerning the Bedford Union Armory redevelopment isn’t over yet.

That after hundreds of Crown Heights residents showed up in force at last nights public scoping hearing at the Ebbets Field Middle School, 46 Mckeever Place last night to demand 100% affordable housing, union jobs and a subsidized recreation center as part of the redevelopment.

The current plan calls for the City to enter into a 99-year lease with BFC Developers for the Armory on the corner of Bedford Avenue and Union Street. The BFC, together with non-profit partners, the Local Development Corporation of Crown Heights (LDCCH) and CAMBA, will then develop the project.

The Armory redevelopment will include 330 rental units of housing, 50% of which will be affordable to low- and middle-income residents; and 56 condominium units, 20% of which will be affordable to middle-income.

A Crown Heights residents speaks against the plan.

The redevelopment will also include a new 67,000-square-foot recreational space featuring basketball courts, multi-sport courts and a competitive-length swimming pool to serve local youth sports leagues, senior programs and others. New commercial office space will be offered at discounted rates for local small businesses and non-profits in need of affordable rents.

BFC Partners hasn’t released the terms of the recreational center and the cost to the community, but many critics assume it will include a monthly fee.

The meeting was an opportunity for local residents to voice their concerns directly to BFC Partners, the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination, NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the architects of the project.

“The biggest problem with this whole project is that is going to be unaffordable to the people here, secondly how much is this costing us? We can’t even see the plan or the financials. Number three, this is not what the community asked for and we are just tired of just having sham community board meetings and sham meetings with the EDC and this mayor should be ashamed of himself. There’s no community input and we say no [to this project],” said Bertha Lewis, Founder and President of the Black Institute as well as a Crown Heights resident.

Many residents and community advocates at the meeting demanded the entire deal be terminated and an entirely new Request For Proposals (RFP) for the Bedford Union Armory be started.

Residents held a protests right before the meeting, shouting “Kill the Deal” and demanding a new proposal. The protests included members from the Crown Heights Tenants Union and New York Communities for Change.

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo

City Council member Laurie Cumbo (District 35, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Crown Heights), who originally supported the plan, did not speak publicly at the meeting, but continued to hedge from this original support.

“I’ve not given a position on where I stand on the project and I believe there’s a great deal of information, through the environmental review that we should have better understanding about. In terms of affordability, in terms of how this project will impact subsidized housing in the neighborhood, childcare slots, daycare centers, in terms of schools and the impact this new population will have on traffic, parking environmental concerns,” Cumbo told KCP.

“There’s still a lot of things that need to be discussed. The project as it currently stands I would not support either, so the passion that the community is putting forward in terms of the fact that they don’t like the deal, I share in that. So this project would have to remarkably be changed in order for the community to voice a new opinion about the project,” she added.

However, some residents think that the project could be a success and is the answer to growing community needs. In particular, Democratic District Leader Geoffrey Davis, Founder/President of the James E. Davis Stop Violence Foundation, highlighted the need for a recreational space for youth to keep from getting into trouble on the street.

“I have been in the community now 25 years addressing gun violence. We need a recreational,educational center for our young people and our seniors. Just three blocks down is Jouvert, and countless people are killed during Jouvert over the years. We need a recreational center for our young people,” said Davis.

James’ foundation along with five other local non-profits including the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, Digital Girl, Inc., Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy, New Heights Youth and the West Indian American Day Carnival Association recently signed a deal for permanent and affordable office space at the redeveloped Bedford-Union Armory.

The project is still in the Environmental Review process or City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) process. Once all comments have been submitted a Draft Environmental Impact Statement  (DEIS) will be released at which point another public hearing on the DEIS will be held.

The project isn’t projected to enter the ULURP process until after the comment period has ended. The public can still submit comments to NYCEDC and Mayor’s Environmental Coordination until 5 p.m. Friday, March 17.

The contacts to submit comments are Attn: Esther Brunner, Deputy Director, 253 Broadway, 14th Floor,  New York, NY 10007. Email: [email protected] or NYC Economic Development Corporation,  Attn: Aileen Gorsuch, Senior Planner, 110 William St, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10038, Email: [email protected].

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