Cumbo Changes Her Tune On Bedford Armory

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City Council Member Laurie Cumbo

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights) and several of her political allies today walked back their support for the proposed redevelopment plan for the city-owned Bedford Union Armory, saying that any market-rate condominiums built to offset the cost of affordable housing and a recreational facility is unacceptable.

Cumbo made the announcement with Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Assembly Member Walter Mosley (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights) and City Council Member Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood) standing next to her at Borough Hall.

“Since the very beginning our message has been clear: We will not allow public land to be used for the purpose of luxury condominiums. The fact that we delivered this position to the developer prior to the presentation of this plan is an insult to the Crown Heights community. I stand here today with my colleagues in government to demand Mayor de Blasio go back to the drawing board and produce a plan that meets the needs of my Brooklyn neighbors,” said Cumbo.

An aerial art rendering view of the redeveloped Bedford-Union Armory.

While Cumbo’s words were clear, they were a direct repudiation of what she said about a year-and-a-half ago in announcing the project – including the condominiums. That plan is due for certification on Monday, meaning it starts the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) clock ticking for final approval.

Cumbo new stance is demanding that Mayor de Blasio “go back to the drawing board and create a plan that meets the needs of the community, including affordable and income-based housing and not luxury condominiums.” Cumbo has committed to withholding support, withholding funding and promising to vote “no” on the project when the ULURP process reaches the City Council if these needs aren’t met.

“It’s important that we have a developer that helps enhance our community, meets with the trade unions, commits to hiring locally, and builds this project with the highest safety standards available. Brooklyn deserves better and the development proposal put forward by our Administration simply does not reflect the needs of our rapidly gentrifying neighborhood,” said Cumbo.

The about-face also comes amid a large vocal public outcry to make the project a hundred percent affordable to stem the tide of gentrification in Crown Heights, and as Cumbo faces a tough September primary against Ede Fox.

The Bedford-Union Armory as it stands today.

“The residents of Crown Heights deserve answers from Laurie Cumbo. Where was Laurie when hundreds raised their voices in opposition to a plan for Bedford Union Armory that would hand our vital public space over to private developers? Why did she continue to support this misguided plan while we rallied, wrote letters to the editor and went door-to-door to fight for more community input? As a Council Member, Laurie has repeatedly sided with developers and has always ignored our community’s needs until it was no longer politically possible to do so,” said Fox.

Cumbo is also coming under criticism from local activists including New York Community for Change (NYCC) Crown Heights leader Vaughn Armour, who thinks Cumbo is going against the deal now, only to favor it again after she wins the primary.

“My neighbors and I see through this dog-and-pony show. This is nothing but hype and bluster, and if Laurie Cumbo were really against this project, it would be dead tomorrow,” said Armour.

“We can’t afford six months of being lied to only to see this project go forward in the end. This will bring more housing we can’t afford, and increase evictions and homelessness in a neighborhood that is being taken over by gentrifying developers like BFC,” he added.

A spokesperson for the proposed developer of the project,  BFC Partners, said the company is fully committed to revitalizing the Bedford-Union Armory and providing much-needed recreational facilities, affordable housing and affordable office space for the Crown Heights community.

“The economic realities of cross-subsidizing a new rec center and the lack of housing subsidies mean that 50% affordability is the only option currently available at the Armory,” said the BFC Partners spokesperson.

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