Insurgent candidate Ede Fox today responded to City Council Member Laurie Cumbo’s accusation that she learned about the controversial Bedford-Union Armory project while she was working for the city council in economic development, and failed to do anything to stop it as a bunch of hooey,
The two will face off for a second time Sept. 12 in the 35th District City Council Democratic Primary covering Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights. After losing to Cumbo in a closely contested primary in 2013, Fox took the job under City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
By Fox’s account, the armory plan was developed outside her department, and there was nothing she could have done to impede it even if she did know about it. “It was not a project that I worked on. I had no part in it, and I wasn’t free to work on it. It wasn’t my department, and it wasn’t my area,” said Fox.
Cumbo yesterday, in the face of fierce community opposition to the plan, walked back her original backing of the plan. She then faced scores of protesters opposing the plan at her state of the district speech last night at the Ingersoll Community Center on Myrtle Avenue.
In a telephone interview following the speech, Fox was pleased to see Cumbo publicly acknowledge the project’s flaws, thus proving that she has begun to listen to the complaints expressed by the neighborhood’s community leaders and activists.
“Those points have been either protested or shouted for a year, at least, by the community,” said Fox. “I’m glad that all the protests and the community activism – and frankly, my participation in this race – have moved her to start listening.”
However, Fox remained skeptical that Cumbo will be able to follow through on her promise to ensure that the project will benefit the community.
“I think that we should do the whole project again,” said Fox, “whether the RFP is rescinded or they just don’t move forward. I don’t think you can negotiate to the position that the community is looking for.”
In matters unrelated to the armory, Fox brought up several issues plaguing the Crown Heights community that she claims Cumbo has neglected, such as the harm caused by “broken windows” policing and lead contamination in Crown Heights public school drinking fountains.
“There are key issues impacting the lives of the 35th District that Cumbo hasn’t addressed,” said Fox. “I’m very concerned about the lead that they’re finding in schools; we’ve been collecting petitions to call on the state to conduct an investigation.”
Fox also challenged the legitimacy of some of the accomplishments that Cumbo took credit for during yesterday’s address. For instance, while Cumbo claimed to have created 700 units of affordable housing at the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital Complex, Fox maintained that the achievement was a collaborative effort that couldn’t be attributed to Cumbo alone.
“Through a significant amount of negotiation between the city and state elected officials,” said Fox, “they were able to bring the landlord to the agreement about that site, and make sure that all of the units were rent-stabilized.”
Furthermore, Fox asserted that the units in question already existed prior to the negotiations, and argued that Cumbo could not truthfully claim to have “created” them.
Going forward, Fox expects to spend the next few months working diligently – not just campaigning against Cumbo, but also attempting to fix the problems that she believes the incumbent has failed to address.