Mayor de Blasio’s recent comments about the Crown Heights community rejection of the Bedford Armory redevelopment plan only shows he is out of touch with the realities of a neighborhood facing rampant gentrification.
In fact, it is rather condescending and insulting that the Mayor thinks it would just take to “explain” the recreation center to the people of Crown Heights to get community support. Poor people should not have to choose between a recreation center and truly affordable housing. The outrageous lack of needed affordable housing while handing massive giveaways of public land to developers is the reason the community board has rejected it, and why hundreds of residents have rallied for months calling on the project to be killed. The community is tired of bargaining over scraps.
Crown Heights is not Park Slope. The incomes and racial representation of the two areas are very different despite the proximity. Housing for people earning more than $68,000 a year is not affordable for residents of Crown Heights.
The fact that three homeless shelters are opening in the neighborhood at the same time that de Blasio is pushing the Bedford Armory plan shows that he is more committed to maintaining the Tale of Two Cities than he is in solving it.
Forcing the community to accept a recreation center for luxury condos is not a deal; it is a slap in the face to local residents like us. One of us was forced out of Brooklyn altogether to sleep on the streets and go into the shelter system and is still homeless. Meanwhile, the one who remains in Crown Heights is fighting the never-ending rent increases to his rent-stabilized apartment and his landlord, who has tried to find ways to evict him after his partner died.
There is nothing affordable even for single people. Even holding two jobs would still be not enough to afford the rents available right now.
The community will not accept insults or a plan that doesn’t include its residents. If the Mayor is serious about wanting the community support then he would kill the current plan. Putting the project in community control via a land trust is the only way to ensure true affordability levels be included in any project moving forward. The community knows what the local residents can really afford, not wealthy developers.
Marcus Moore is a member of Picture the Homeless still looking for a permanent home. Vaughn Armour is a member of New York Communities for Change and has lived in Crown Heights for 13 years.