As Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams readies to soon announce his recommendations on the proposal to redevelop the Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights, supporters and opponents of the project are continuing to draw battle lines.
On the supporter side, Rev. Dr. Daryl G. Bloodsaw of the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights delivered nearly 400 letters of support for the Armory plan to the borough president’s office. The letters came from local stakeholders who want the proposal to advance and transform the Armory from an empty space into a new affordable recreational and community center, affordable office space for non-profits and mixed-income housing for the Crown Heights community.
“This proposal represents an incredible opportunity for thousands of Crown Heights families who will benefit from new community programming, housing and services at a time when they are most needed in our neighborhood,” wrote Rev. Bloodsaw in his own letter of support.
“While opponents of the Armory proposal have sought to prevent us from making our voices heard, the reality is that so many Crown Heights residents and stakeholders believe that we cannot let this opportunity slip away. Saying no to this plan would mean allowing the Armory to remain empty for years – or decades – and continue crumbling while our community is left without equal access to resources that are already available in so many other neighborhoods.”
The supporters argue that the new recreational and community center the project includes at free and reduced-cost programming to local Crown Heights residents at affordable rates is much-needed. They argue it will fill a huge gap in what is currently available to Crown Heights residents, especially for local youth who have little to no quality athletic space at their public schools.
The proposal also provides new affordable office space for local non-profit organizations, including groups that focus on supporting vulnerable and underserved populations in Crown Heights. Non-profits already expected to gain affordable office space at the Armory include the West Indian American Day Carnival Association; the Brooklyn Community Pride Center; Digital Girl, Inc.; Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy; the James E. Davis Stop the Violence Foundation; and New Heights Youth.
On the opponent side, rresidents and organizers for New York Communities for Change (NYCC) met last week at the Precious Gifts Day Care Center, 317 Albany Avenue, to discuss their plans for defeating the Bedford Union Armory project, a plan to convert the 138,000-square-foot armory into 56 condos, 330 rental units, and a recreation center.
Opponents feel the housing portion of the project does not include enough housing that is affordable to current Crown Heights residents, and the market rate condo portion of the project will only increase gentrification in the neighborhood.
“We want their hands off the armory,” said Natalie Hernandez, an organizer for NYCC. “If you’re not planning to do something good with that armory that will actually benefit Crown Heights, if you don’t want to use public land for the benefit of the public, then get your hands off.”
“The median income in crown heights is around $39,480 dollars for a family of three,” said NYCC organizer Cea Weaver. “But most of the housing that’s going to be built in this project is for people who make over 100,000 dollars a year.”
While Adams will make his recommendation, City Council Member Laurie Cumbo (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights), in whose district the armory site is located, and Mayor Bill de Blasio will ultimately make the decision of the proposed developement.
Cumbo, who originally supported the project, has since turned against it over the affordable housing issue. De Blasio believes the project is a good one and important to the community.
Opponents of the project said at the meeting that they were not confident Cumbo would ultimately vote against it, considering the support she received from de Blasio during her campaign for reelection. They also appear skeptical that Cumbo’s re-evaluating the project comes because she faces a stiff challenge from Ede Fox, who opposes the project in the Sept. 12 Democratic Primary.
Cumbo did appear with Adams and City Councilmember Jumaane Williams on a recent NY1’s Inside City Hall, in which she further elaborated her views on the project. That can be viewed here.